Barbara ThompsonWhen Barbara Thompson urged her children to open a particular Christmas present, they knew a book was inside. Her love of gifting books inspired a Christmas Day tradition when each family member reads a selection from the book chosen just for them.

A recent favorite, and one that Thompson keeps returning to, is “The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse” by Charlie Mackesy.

“It’s a great motivational book for children, but adult people love it, as well,” said Thompson. “These animals all have special characteristics. Not everybody does the same thing, but then everybody can help each other. You can learn from each other.”

Thompson is retired as Penn State Harrisburg’s director of multicultural recruitment and community affairs. The longtime literacy advocate has also chaired Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Epsilon Sigma Theta Chapter’s African American Read-In. Now in its 25th year, the read-in was initially hosted by The Library, before outgrowing available Library spaces.

Thompson also serves on the Super Cool Book Lovers Club, which advises The Library on acquiring diverse titles and organizes the Super Cool Book Parade June 7 in Halifax and June 14 in Harrisburg.

What are you reading?The Light We Carry” by Michelle Obama, is my most recent read. I’m still in it, because I have to put it down and go do something else, and sometimes I pick up another book in between. The one I’m still reading is “Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019.” Last year, I read “Caste” by Isabel Wilkerson.

Why those books? Most recently, we’ve had a lot of information in the news about history and questioning history. It’s what appears to be a desire to omit some history that maybe isn’t perceived as positive. I think it’s important that we know – that we know — what’s real.

What does The Library mean for literacy? A library is so central to any community. As a child, I loved reading. I would go to the library in my school. I would go to the bookmobile that came to my neighborhood. I would go to the central library. My sense as a child growing up was this whole notion of adventure and understanding the world through the written word, and understanding how people express themselves. The Library also serves as a place for people to come and gather. It used to be really quiet. Now, it’s so dynamic. Dauphin County Library System is doing everything they can to provide services to a diverse community and people of all walks of life. It’s such a valuable resource in our community. I don’t know of any other place, really, where people can just come and learn and be.