Pat Mora was formerly a teacher and started teaching after earning her M.A.. Later on, she moved to an administrative position where she was more able to focus on her writing.
Mora began professionally writing in the early 1980s. She has produced writing for all age groups, creating picture books, poetry and biographies. Her choice of subject matter and theme is often shaped by life on the Mexico–United States border where she was born and spent much of her life. Of the border, she says: "The desert, mi madre, is my stern teacher...The Southwestern landscape has been my world, my point of reference." Much of her writing highlights the human and cultural diversity of the southwestern United States and northern Mexico. She writes of the rich sense of "diversity within Mexican American experience." Mora celebrates diversity and is opposed to the idea of an American monoculture; therefore, she is very concerned with preserving cultural heritage: "I write because I believe that Mexican Americans need to take their rightful place in U.S. literature. We need to be published and to be studied in schools and colleges so that the stories and ideas of our people won't quietly disappear."
Mora is a strong advocate of bilingual literacy. Early in her career, she coined a concept she named "bookjoy" which describes the pleasure of reading.
Mora's style of writing often incorporates code switching between English and Spanish words. As a writer, she allows a free-flow of ideas in her first draft: she doesn't question her motivation for writing and writes using "as little conscious analysis as possible." She prefers to use her critical eye for editing her own work later.
Pat Mora has collaborated with her daughter, Libby Martinez, on two children's books: I Pledge Allegiance, and Bravo, Chico Canta! Bravo! where Martinez is the illustrator.
Children's Day, Book Day
In the mid-nineties, Mora founded the community-based, family literacy initiative, El día de los niños, El día de los libros/Children's Day, Book Day (Día). In 1997, she received the official endorsement of REFORMA, the National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish-Speaking for the project. Mora based Dia on Mexican National Children's Day festivities held since 1925. The two part celebration of Día includes a commitment to promote literacy and bookjoy, and culminates in book celebrations that unite communities. When choosing a date to kick off Día, she chose April 30 because it was the last day of National Poetry month. The first Dia took place in 1996.
Children's Day, Book Day, has grown in the U.S. to include all children, languages and cultures. Mora has expressed the desire to have books, celebrations and materials for Dia to include "all languages spoken in the United States."
In 2004, the Library Service to Children's Board of the American Library Association became the "national home" to Dia. Mora says, "If we want our nation to be a country of readers...[we] need to work together to inspire communities in nurturing reading families."