I know that Joan would love the children’s area.

In 2019, an icon of children’s literature noted its 60th anniversary, and Sandy Leopold celebrated by buying a commemorative edition.

“Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel,” says Sandy, who started as an attorney and then devoted his career to state government budgets and pension investments. “It meant a lot to me as a kid. I thought Mike Mulligan was the greatest. I thought becoming a steam shovel operator was the best thing to do, but I somehow got off the track.”

Sandy and his family created the Joan Y. Leopold Endowment Fund that sustains the Joan Y. Leopold Children’s Book Week Celebration, scheduled for its 15th anniversary Nov. 8 to 14, 2021. The popular event connects young children with the authors and illustrators who – like Virginia Lee Burton and her visually stunning tale of a much-loved steam shovel – bring stories to life with their words and pictures.

Sandy’s five children created the idea for Children’s Book Week to honor their mother, Joan, after her death in 2006. The tireless advocate for children’s literacy served on The Library board for 20 years. Her passion stemmed from her work in the Harrisburg State Hospital, helping adults read but recognizing that the problem began in childhood.

“She saw there were some weaknesses that came back to people not really getting a good reading education in their early years,” says Sandy. “She always believed that you had to start young.”

Today, Sandy has also chosen to support The Library’s Your Place to Belong Campaign. The McCormick Riverfront Library expansion includes a space that would have been dear to Joan Leopold’s heart – a space just for kids to explore STREAM (science, technology, reading, engineering, arts, math). The area will help underserved children build their learning capacities.

What do you think of Children’s Book Week, now that it’s been going strong for 15 years? It’s a terrific program. It helps kids grow up to be readers.

Is Children’s Book Week more important than ever, given the disruptions to education in the last 18 months? Absolutely. If there ever was a time when very young people — needed more help in reading and listening, this is it. Working from home when you’re 4, 5, or 6 years old, it can’t be done.

Why did you offer support for the Your Place to Belong campaign? I wanted to donate additional money to The Library, and I called Executive Director Karen Cullings to ask where it would do the most good. She suggested that it go to the expansion, and I felt perfectly happy with that. Joan would love the children’s area. I do, too. She was a believer in Dauphin County Library System. She thought it was great.