First-ever ‘Super Cool Book Parade’ offers free and diverse books for all ages
A little boy once showed up at Tri-County Opportunities Industrialization Center with a rock in his hand. What kind of rock was it? It turned out to be a piece of concrete, but OIC’s collection of books – free to the community – included a reference book about rocks.
OIC Executive Director Jeffrey Woodyard gave the boy the book and told him he would probably find rocks to identify in his neighborhood.
“He was so excited; his eyes were as big as the moon,” says Woodyard, whose agency provides training and employment programs. “You just never know what kids are interested are in. One day, he’ll be a geologist.”
In that same spirit, Dauphin County Library System’s first Super Cool Book Parade on June 23 at the John Harris High School parking lot aims to expand the joy of reading to adults and children by giving out books representing a diversity of titles and authors.
“It’s a walk-through or drive-through event,” says Public Services Director Lori Milach. “We’re encouraging people to accept the giveaway books and then go home and enjoy them with their families.”
The Book Parade’s date is intended to help children maintain good reading habits after the school year ends and avoid the “summer slide” known to diminish academic progress.
Helping organize the parade is the Super Cool Book Lovers Book Club, a local literacy advocate advising The Library on diversifying its collection. With coronavirus still a concern, the outdoor event allows visitors to walk or drive among stations and book trucks.
The Book Parade builds on The Library’s ongoing efforts to diversify its collection to reflect the community's diversity.
“The idea is always to put good literature into the hands of children,” says Karen Love, of the African American Read-In and a member of the Super Cool Book Lovers Book Club. “Being able to have this Book Parade and have families come and get books that would be appealing to their children and cover a diverse group of topics is something that will benefit the community greatly.”
Love anticipates a wide range of works.
“Fiction, nonfiction, different cultures, and backgrounds. Native Americans, Hispanics, African American, European. It’s a little bit of everything,’’ she says.
“We want people to be exposed to all different cultures and to use literature as a bridge to understanding each other and finding commonalities in our lives,’’ Love says.
Diverse books help build self-esteem in children who see themselves reflected in their reading. At the same time, it introduces children to “the people in their community,” says Milach.
“It’s important that children see diversity in what they’re reading,” she says. “It normalizes what life truly is like.”
Grown-ups can also join the reading fun; with free books, they can use to build their home libraries.
“We promote lifelong learning,” says Woodyard of OIC, whose BookyMobile will be there, stocked with more than 1,000 titles for kids and adults. “We want the adults, particularly the parents, to model those good reading habits to their kids. When the kids see that their parents think reading is important, they get excited to read, too.”
The parade will include free snacks as well as food for purchase from local food trucks. Participating organizations include:
“It’s always great to partner with people who realize the importance of reading,” says Love. “We’re very fortunate to have a library system that is inclusive and is reaching out to the community because we can do so much more when we work together.”
“We hope this will be a start to recognize that reading needs to be going on all the time,” says Love. “This is another way to jumpstart this idea of having books at your fingertips.”