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 www.JudithsReadingRoom.org/freedom-through-literacy-award/

2019 Freedom Through Literacy Award Flyer

Spread the word about Judith’s Reading Room’s 2019 Freedom Through Literacy Award by sharing and posting our flyer. Please download the flyer to print

The 5th annual Judith’s Reading Room “Freedom Through Literacy” Award will honor individual champions of literacy from all disciplines around the world — teachers, librarians, authors, researchers, educators — anyone who has done exemplary work to instill in others a love of reading.

2019 Freedom Through Literacy Award Press Release

CONTACT:  Cathy Leiber484-661-6151

Judith’s Reading Room Seeks Applicants for its 
2019 Freedom Through Literacy Award

January 21, 2019 — Lehigh Valley, Pa.  Judith’s Reading Room, a 501 (c) 3 literacy organization founded in 2010, announced today that applications for its 2019 Freedom Through Literacy Award can be found online at www.JudithsReadingRoom.org/APPLY.   The prestigious award, that honors multiple winners, carries a total cash prize of $4,500.  Deadline for submission of applications is July 1, 2019.  

The annual Freedom Through Literacy Award — the signature element of Judith’s Reading Room — is open to individual champions of literacy including teachers, librarians, authors, researchers, educators and literacy nonprofits  — anyone who has done exemplary work to instill in others a love of reading.  

In addition to the $3,000 Grand Prize, the Judith’s Award worth $500, is limited to  teachers, librarians and/or authors, who are also eligible to win the Grand Prize.  The Board Option Award, totaling $1,000, was created to acknowledge the passion of our board members who are constantly on the lookout for individuals doing something exciting in the world of literacy.

Since its inception in 2010,  Judith’s Reading Room has dedicated 96 libraries in 19 countries and counting, with 128,000 books donated valued at nearly $1.4 million dollars.  Since 2015, The Freedom Through Literacy Award has disbursed $29,000 and has honored 25 individual champions of literacy in the United States, the Philippines, Bhutan, Pakistan, Rwanda, Cambodia and Mexico.

GRAND PRIZE – 2018 Freedom Through Literacy

Grand Prize $3,000

Matthew Weimann and Julia Dweck
“Release Your Fireflies” — Macungie, Pa

Matthew Weinmann, Ibiyinka Alao and Julia Dweck

Matthew Weinmann and Julia Dweck (shown here with Ibiyinka Alao)

“Release Your Fireflies” is best described as a storytelling-movement. Matthew Weimann and Julia Dweck, two ‘stellar’ teachers according to their principal, inspired their students in grades 3-5 to interpret Ibi’s true story. The children wrote an award winning picture book entitled, “Ibi’s Fireflies,” published by Scholastic. The goal of “Release Your Fireflies” is to equip children to navigate the world through storytelling, paving the way for an appreciation of human literature. Matt and Julia’s project promotes storytelling inside and outside the classroom — nurturing literacy skills, creative thinking, communication, empathy, increased confidence and self-esteem. The duo, described as “true pioneers in the pursuit of a global classroom of storytellers,” created a website where teachers can access a library of storytelling curriculum that encourages children to share their stories and reflect on them through prompts and questions. “Ibi’s Fireflies,” is under consideration by producer Tim Burton, as a full-length animated feature.

UN Art Ambassador Ibiyinka Alao’s true life story provided the inspiration for the project.

Julia Dweck — “Nelson Mandela once said, ‘That we are only people, because of the people.’  This is the spirit of ubuntu embodied in the Freedom Through Literacy Award.  Our mission to share stories is a natural extension of this philosophy.  After all, a story is only a story when there is someone there to listen.”

Matthew Weimann —“We are super excited to share this project with the world and help students learn and practice great story-telling. This prize will help us achieve our dreams of connecting with teachers and students from all walks of like and roads in distant lands.”

JUDITH’S AWARD – 2018 Freedom Through Literacy

Judith’s Award $500

Carin Mileshosky
“FleetwoodSUMMER 2018”— Fleetwood, Pa


 Carin Mileshosky

Carin Mileshosky

Fleetwood Area Public Librarian Carin Mileshosky is the driving force behind this community’s effort to counter-attack the syndrome known as ‘summer slide’ where students can lose up to 2 months of learning, adding up to a full year behind grade level by the time they reach 5th grade. Carin constantly champions the fact that a public library has an important role to play in the community. This summer her initiatives attracted over 180 patrons by offering quality service, information and new technology while promoting an early and lifelong love of learning. It is no wonder that the Fleetwood Library earned the PA FORWARD Library Association’s “Gold Star Library” designation. Carin is committed to providing her community with resources, programs, and opportunities to grow as readers — to be inspired, curious and to become successful lifelong learners. She believes that by promoting all facets of literacy, she can provide her patrons the freedom to become whom they want to be and to help make their dreams a reality.

Carin Mileshosky — “After graduating from college in 1999, I did not immediately set out to become a Librarian. It was a gradual realization that came about after many years of searching for what I wanted to be when I grew up. Once I finally began my career in the library world, it seemed such an easy decision and I still often wonder what took me so long. The title of this award speaks directly to my mission as a Librarian.”