BOARD OPTIONS – 2019 Freedom Through Literacy

2019 Board Option Award – $300

Karen Brown
“Cat Tales – Kids Reading to Cats”— St. Paul, Minnesota


Two Sundays a month, Karen Brown opens up her no-kill cat shelter, Caring for Cats, to young children volunteers to practice reading aloud to a very willing audience — dozens of cats! Testimonies from families reveal that children have improved their confidence in reading thanks to the calming and low-pressure atmosphere. For creating a unique and rewarding experience for cats and children alike, we award Karen Brown a 2019 Board Option Award.




CFC Quote from Karen on how she feels about winning a 2019 Freedom Through Literacy Board Option Prize Award:

Thank you to Judith’s Reading Room for recognizing and encouraging the Caring for Cat’s reading program: Cat Tales – Kids Reading to Cats. A cat shelter may seem an unlikely advocate for literacy, but we knew our kitties would help kids fall in love with reading. Not only do the kids get to read stories to a supportive and nonjudgmental audience, they get to see how their words and actions help shy or traumatized kitties connect with people. We see cats showing appreciation to their reader friends with a paw on the shoulder or a nose-to-nose touch. By sharing a story, cats learn that people are okay, and kids learn that reading can be a force for good in all kinds of places and situations. This award reaffirms our commitment to being partners with our community and with organizations like Judith’s Reading Room and our fellow awardees to support literacy.  I am personally honored to have Cat Tales receive a 2019 Freedom Through Literacy Board Option Prize Award.

2019 Board Option – $300

Kathleen Kapila
“LGBT Children’s Literacy: Drag Queen Story Hour”— Allentown, Pennsylvania

As librarian of the Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center, Kathleen Kapila is showing off her creativity with the creation of Drag Queen Story Hour, a new program in which drag performers read books to young children to encourage both a love of reading and freedom of gender expression. We proudly award Kathleen Kapila a Board Option Award for her efforts.




2019 Board Option –  $200

Sue Goatley
“Outdoor Education Book” — Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe



Sue Goatley has spent the past few years ensuring that St. Mary’s School in the
Hwange Region provides its 845 students with books. For her work to open up their
world through literature, we proudly award Sue a Board Option Award.



2019 Board Option -$200

Chanith Wijeratne
“Promoting Conservation Through Inspired Reading”— Essendon,  Victoria, Australia

ChanithWijeratneChanith has been writing about the wildlife of Sri
Lanka, Australia and Africa since the age of six.
With 10 titles under his belt, he has inspired
many children around him to pursue writing and
conservation. For this, we happily award Chanith
a Board Option Award.


JUDITH’S AWARD – 2019 Freedom Through Literacy

Judith’s Award $500

Vicky Xanthopoulou- “Let’s Play Book”
Potamia, North Greece


Children in the village of Potamia on Thassos Island in North Greece have little access to books; without a library, it had been difficult for the community to foster solid reading skills. That’s why Vicky, an elementary school teacher, jumped into action. She created “Let’s Play Book,” which encourages children to interpret the world around them through reading and playing with books that she and other local authors have created.

In her honor, we announce the establishment of its 98th library in Vicky’s village of Potamia, starting with a donation of 75 children’s books.

We also happily recognize Vicky and her “Let’s Play Book” program as winner of the 2019 Judith’s Award.



Let’s play book (LPB) is a reading promotion project based on sociocultural, constructivist, ecological systems and experiental theories of learning. LPB focuses on the social and cultural dimensions of learning and promotes equal opportunities for all students. Children are encouraged to understand and interpret the world around them through reading and playing with books. By setting the book at the center of the learning process and through a diverse range of reading animations I am trying to create social landscapes inside the classroom which stimulate children and incite them to interact with each other.

I am hugely honored to receive ‘Judith’s Award’ by Judith’s Reading Room whose visionary work and ideals appeal to the highest of my aspirations.

GRAND PRIZE – 2019 Freedom Through Literacy

Grand Prize Award – $3,000

Alvin Irby, “Barbershop Books”
New York, New York

Alvin Irby, a passionate social entrepreneur and former teacher, had a simple idea: why not use the time you get your hair cut to build literacy skills? And with a laser-beam focus,
Barbershop Books was born. Irby’s community-based
program creates inviting, child-friendly reading spaces in
urban barbershops for young black boys.

Originally developed in Harlem, Barbershop Books has
spread to 140 barbershops (and counting!) across more than
30 cities and 20 states, reaching 5,600 boys per month.

We warmly honor Alvin Irby as the Grand Prize winner of the
2019 Freedom Through Literacy Award for his creative
approach to bring culturally-relevant, age-appropriate, and
gender-responsive books to foster literacy skills and a love
for reading amongst young black boys.



The 2019 Freedom Through Literacy Award was held at Ammos Estiatorio, New York City on Saturday, September 28th. Each award ceremony has been special it is own, 2019s was an intimate gathering but very powerful with a special presentation by Robert Lucas spoke on what it was like opening 2 Judith’s Reading Room libraries in Cambodia, what the books meant to the children, and how books changed their lives. Alvin Irby, the Grand Prize winner brough three of his colleagues to share in the glory and our Judith’s Award winner, Vicky Xanthopoulou, traveled from Greece along with her husband to accept of her award. In addition to honoring the 2019 Freedom Through Literacy Award Winners, Judith’s Reading Room announced the establishment of the 98th Judith’s Reading Room Library in the Vicky Xanthopoulou’s village of Potamia on the Island of Thassos in North Greece. The initial donation will include 75 custom selected children’s titles. In 2020, the 99th library will be dedicated in Zimbabwe.

2019 Freedom Through Literacy Award Winners Named

CONTACT:  Cathy Leiber

2019 Freedom Through Literacy Award Winners Named

Empowering Global Communities to Create Positive Reading Experiences

From Allentown, St. Paul and New York City … To Greece, Zimbabwe and Australia

July 27, 2019 — Lehigh Valley, Pa — Judith’s Reading Room names “Barbershop Books,” as Grand Prize Winner of the 2019 Freedom Through Literacy Award.  Led by educator and author Alvin Irby, based in New York City, Barbershop Books is a laser-focused community-based program that creates child-friendly reading spaces in barbershops involving Black men, Black boys and Black barbers.  Irby believes that “early positive reading experiences help children identify as readers and when children identify as readers they are more likely to read for fun.”  The Barbershop Books program currently has child-friendly reading spaces in 140 barbershops across more than 30 cities and 20 states, reaching over 5,600 boys per month.  Books are selected by young Black boys and Irby’s program provides early literacy training to barbers.  For his work, Irby is awarded the 2019 Grand Prize Award valued at $3,000.

The Judith’s Award — exclusive to teachers, librarians or authors — names Vicky Xanthopoulou, originator of “Let’s Play Book,” its 2019 Judith’s Award recipient.  The elementary school teacher from Potamia Village, Thassos Island, North Greece created the innovative project titled, “Let’s Play Book,” which combines in her words, “the innate impulsion of children to play with the need to penetrate the text and all book’s aspects.”  “Let’s Play Book” is the winner of numerous Greek literacy distinctions and is based on reading animations designed to cultivate shared values for her multi-cultural students.  Her work is essential:  there is no lending library in her village, so her original publications have proven to be essential in providing basic literacy tools.  For her innovative, creative and passionate work in a village with no library, Judith’s Reading Room awards Xanthopoulou the 2019 Judith’s Award valued at $500.

The Board Option Award with a total prize of $1,000 is shared amongst four visionary individuals. The winners of the 2019 Board Option Award are:  

Karen Brown, Caring For Cats Shelter Volunteer, “Cat Tales — Kids Reading to Cats,” based in North St. Paul, Minnesota.  At this no-kill all volunteer cat shelter, Brown provides books for children to read aloud to kitty cats while they consider adoption.  One mother wrote, “My son’s fondness for reading is rather small.  But the spot in his heart for cats is quite large.  I’m hopeful that this will help him learn to love reading.” She writes, “we provide an entirely different setting where the kitties and children are both primary program beneficiaries.”  Brown is awarded a 2019 Board Option prize valued at $300.

Kathleen Kapila, Librarian, Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center, “LGBT Children’s Literacy:  Drag Queen Story Hour” based in Allentown, Pennsylvania.  “The connection between community and literacy is especially true for people with marginalized identities,” the application states.  Drag Queen story hours, in which drag performers read books to children, encouraging a love of reading and freedom of gender expression, speaks to the heart of the Freedom Through Literacy Award and to the life-work of Judith Krug, in whose memory Judith’s Reading Room was created.  As founder of Banned Books Week over 40 years ago, Krug’s favorite book to read aloud in elementary classrooms was And Tango Makes Three, a story of two male penguins raising a chick.  Kapila is awarded a 2019 Board Option prize valued at $300.

Sue Goatley, nonprofit leader, Children in the Wilderness, for her support of “St. Mary’s Primary School Library Enrichment Project,” based in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe.  In the Hwange Region, where there is nowhere to buy books, St. Mary’s Primary School is a haven for its 845 students who rely on the school for opening up their world through books.  We recognize Sue Goatley for her work to provision a library in a country that does not provide government support for rural educational resource needs and for recognizing that even if the child cannot read, the idea of a book is “such an exciting prospect for them.”  Goatley is awarded a 2019 Board Option prize valued at $200.

Kulasekara Mudiyanselage Chanith Wijeratne, Author and Illustrator, for his project “Promoting Conservation Through Inspired Reading,” Essendon, Victoria, Australia.  Chanith, at the age of six, published Wildlife of Udawalawe National Park at Lens Range — the first-ever book about this globally popular National Park in Sri Lanka.Wijeratne has since completed 10 books on the wildlife of Sri Lanka, Australia and South Africa.   His attitude toward literacy is clear: “being able to read and write prepares us well to serve fellow human beings.”  We recognize Chanith Wijeratne, who is in Grade 12, as an accomplished author, naturalist, and role model for other children.   Wijeratne is awarded a 2019 Board Option prize valued at $200.

Judith’s Reading Room mission is to enrich lives and societies by proactively encouraging freedom through literacy.  To date, the organization has fulfilled that mission by establishing 97 libraries in 20 countries (and counting!) with 128,000 books donated valued at nearly $1.4 million dollars.  The Freedom Through Literacy Award, initiated in 2015 as the organization’s signature event, has disbursed $33,500 in prize money, honoring 31 individual champions of literacy in the United States, the Philippines, Bhutan, Pakistan, Rwanda, Cambodia, Mexico, Australia, Zimbabwe and Greece.

Visit Judith’s Reading Room Freedom Through Literacy Award for current award information!

Alif Laila Book Bus Rickshaw

Judith’s Reading Room is happy to share this wonderful news from Alif Laila..

Dear Friends,


We have been using rickshaws as mobile libraries for some years now, but they were rented for the purpose. A grant from the Chinese Embassy in Pakistan enabled us to make a custom built one.

So happy to share this!!

All set now to bring the joy of books to children in marginalized communities!
Hoping to run a fleet soon 🙂

Alif Laila Society-2019 Photos

Basarat and Alif Laila Society, Freedom Through Literacy 2015 grand prize winner,  continues her project in Pakistan.  She just sent us some fantastic new photos! Basarat believes that by providing access to quality literature, in a country that spends less than 2% on education, will inspire life-long learners and, most importantly, develop positive attitudes so critical for a tolerant society. Convinced that books are change agents and that libraries for children are places of independent research, critical thinking and imagination power houses, Basarat sets a determined and noteworthy commitment to literacy in Pakistan.

Fox Chase Efforts Continue!

Lee Hornick with little "red" cart
Lee Hornick with little “red” cart

On November 4th of 2011, an amazing journey started. Through my affiliation with the Charitable Organization Judith’s Reading Room I was able to establish a mobile book cart at Fox Chase Cancer Center. A little red cart and 13 boxes of books has grown to books being available on the cart which is taken from room to room by a volunteer, as well book cases  filled everywhere you go throughout Fox Chase Cancer Center.

This all started while my Father was a patient. I saw a need and was fortunate enough to be able, through my affiliation with Judith’s Reading Room, to fill it. In 2015, Judith’s Reading Room took the charity in another direction, but through the connections Cathy Leiber helped established I was able to carry on donating books which I collect from various locations. To date over 8100 books have been donated for the patients, family & friends who are spending time at Fox Chase Cancer Center.

The remuneration is seeing people lost in a book when I make a drop, as well as people stopping me as I am unloading and letting me know how much having access to a good book has meant to them while they are either in treatment or waiting by a  loved one’s side.

Ann Shanley and Lee Hornick
Ann Shanley and Lee Hornick

 I do not do this alone, I have a few friends in particular who are there every year to help at the AAUW Book sale which Cathy introduced me too, My Good friend Ann Shanley and her Husband Ed Brett have helped me load literally thousands of books to be trucked to Fox Chase Cancer Center, as well as my good friend Maureen Burris who has helped me sort and collect thousands of books as well.

Lee Hornick


IMPACT Grows in East Java

East Java is a place where a great story of a great story of IMPACT is told, starting with a seed and watching it grow.

Mr. Arif Darmawan, "The World is Just a Book Away"

Arif Darmawan is an 2015 Freedom Through Literacy Award HONORABLE MENTIONS winner. At the time of the award, Arif was credited with helping promote literacy and education by developing 55 libraries with more than 42,000 books and programs that plant the seeds of leadership, environmental consciousness and community connection in East Java, Indonesia through the organization The World is Just a Book Away. These libraries impacted 28,000 Indonesian school children.

NOW, WIJABA is working in close partnership with the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI), WIJABA is in the process of introducing the Jane Goodall Institute’s “Roots & Shoots” environmental awareness program across WIJABA network  libraries in Sidoarjo (East Java) and Padang (West Sumatra), Indonesia.


Judith’s Reading Room Opens Library in Honduras

CONTACT:  Cathy Leiber

Literacy Non Profit Dedicates its 97th Library
Judith’s Reading Room libraries are now found in 20 countries

March 25, 2019 — Lehigh Valley, Pa.  Judith’s Reading Room, established in 2010 to honor the memory and legacy of Judith F. Krug, a librarian, announced today that it has established a library containing over 400 books in the mountainous town of Zambrano in the Central American country of the Republic of Honduras.

Lafayette College Librarian, Ana Luhrs, a former member of the board of directors of Judith’s Reading Room, recently led a group of Lafayette students to build a curated library for exceptional women selected by village elders to attend The Leadership Center (TLC) in Zambrano.  Ana used the funds she was awarded as a winner of the organization’s 2018 Freedom Through Literacy Award to purchase books, among them autobiographies of women, and to create a culture of reading for pleasure. 

“Access to information beyond the classroom allows students to take ownership of their educational journey,” said Luhrs.  “Library collections, especially well-curated collections, provide a variety of perspectives beyond that of a classroom textbook and an instructor,” she added.

 “Judith’s Reading Room stands with the dozens of young women hand-picked to learn management and leadership skills at TLC so that they can become highly productive leaders in their country,” said Cathy Leiber, Co-Founder, Judith’s Reading Room.  “Thanks to Ana Luhrs, having a library at TLC which is packed with books to encourage a love of reading, students will be able to explore the world when there is little opportunity to leave their country,” added Leiber.

Since 2010, Judith’s Reading Room has dedicated 97 libraries in 20 countries.  The organization sponsors the Freedom Through Literacy Award which has disbursed $29,000 in awards to 25 individual champions of literacy.  Additional information and the application for the 2019 Award can be found at