In a SKYPE call with Judith’s Reading Room, a nonprofit literacy organization based in Bethlehem last night, Capt. Christopher G. Neeley, US Army, told the assembled group of 16 community volunteers that the children’s books sent by Judith’s Reading Room “Boxers” to Camp Phoenix, Kabul, Afghanistan, between 2010 and 2014 had “saved lives.”
Capt. Neeley, now stateside, told us that while he served as Public Affairs Officer, “the Camp suffered mortar shellings and bombings. When the boxes of children’s books arrived and the troops decided to hand deliver them to village elders, the shellings and bombings STOPPED.”
He said “the Afghan children had never before seen a book” and added that “it did not matter that the children could not understand English: pictures in the storybooks helped parents ‘read’ to their children.”
The more than 4,000 adult books the organization sent during the same time period, and which created the first-ever war-zone library in Afghanistan called the Judith F. Krug Memorial Library, were basically the only “entertainment” the troops enjoyed.
All together, the organization shipped more than 8,000 books to Afghanistan before the base was closed in June, 2014.
Judith’s Reading Room was founded in April 2010 in memory of Judy Krug, cousin to the founders, and an influential librarian whose life work was focused on defending the First Amendment. The organization has established 86 libraries around the world in 13 countries, seven states including on board an aircraft carrier. The organization has shipped over 106,000 books valued at more than $1,073,000.