Books in Cambodia Lead to Jobs for Graduating Students

Here at Judith’s Reading Room, we were very touched and impressed to learn from Robert Lucas that he has been able to start his own business in Cambodia after we collaborated with him to open a library there. Here is an update on his story:

Books in Cambodia Lead to Jobs for Graduating Students
by Robert Lucas

Oun, Kimlong and Robert (pictured left to right) in their production facilities.

Oun, Kimlong and Robert (pictured left to right) in their production facilities.

Cambodia always felt a little like home, despite having grown up in the US, so it was a joy and a gift to be able to collaborate with Judith’s Reading Room to open their first libraries here in Cambodia. Not knowing what the possibilities would lead to, I hand carried the books from Los Angeles to both non-profit organizations, A New Day Cambodia in the capital Phnom Penh and Anjali’s House in Siem Reap.

I remember the day I took the books to both places—I was with my parents—and we spent time with the kids reading stories, turning pages, and gazing in awe and curiosity at the new pictures and new stories.  The kids still seemed so young at the time—it was April 2013—but I knew they would be going out into the world outside of the non-profits soon enough.

I was never with the kids on a daily basis after opening the libraries as I went off on my own adventures, opening my first business based in Phnom Penh, but I stayed in contact with the students and would often ask them about any new books they had read or if they were writing their own stories yet. Their faces would light up any time I asked them about the books in their new libraries.

As time passed though, there was a particular growth and synergy for both the students and myself as my business was doing well and the kids were not only learning more, but also readying themselves to enter the workforce. One by one, the students would leave the fertile soils of the library and the non-profit to start planting seeds of their own as they began to build their careers and lives ahead of them.

When I started out with my business Jiva Probiotics, which creates hand-crafted probiotic beverages, I knew building a strong team would be key, so one of the first places I looked to was the non-profits I had been connected to. I hired Kimlong who was a former teacher from A New Day Cambodia and we continued to strengthen our team by inviting the students, who were leaving the center to look for work, to join our team. Turns out that has been a big key to our success because we started with a feeling of camaraderie dating back to the founding of the JRR libraries.

To this day, Jiva and the leaving students continue to partner and work together and even though some have come and gone, moving onto even brighter futures, there is a bond rooted in books and libraries. I can only hope that all of our futures stay intertwined and connected through books and meaningful work, leading to brighter days ahead.


Cracking Open the Universe

The documentary, “Cracking Open the Universe,” you are about to view, is emblematic of the mission of Judith’s Reading Room, the Producer of this film. This film, as the embodiment of that mission, “Freedom Through Literacy,” demonstrates the sociological impact of literacy to promote peaceful human interaction. The vehicle employed to facilitate that peaceful human interaction is the Book Club, and the empowering fuel is Literacy.

Copyright 2015 by Judith’s Reading Room
Directed and Edited by Joel Vargas

To learn more about Judith’s Reading Room and its work to recognize and support those whose mission it is to promote and spread literacy, please visit Thank you.

Doris Leiber – March 2014 Volunteer of The Month

Doris Leiber is named March Volunteer of the Month. DMLDoris, who hails from the San Francisco Bay Area, was Judith F. Krug’s aunt and mother of co-founder Scott Leiber.  Every year when she visits the Leiber clan she volunteers at Judith’s Reading Room.  In April, 2013, Judith’s Reading Room honored Doris by agreeing to ship 50 new and gently-read children’s books every other month to the Canandaigua, New York VA hospital.   The hospital reached out to the organization because they said they were seeing many young vets with children, who had nothing to read in the waiting rooms.  Dedicating these shipments to Canandaigua was a natural because Doris is a native New Yorker, a veteran of WW II and a mother of five!  Doris, a member of the Greatest Generation and Navy veteran, WWII, where she served as a WAVE based in the Bay Area, will turn 91 in August.  Thank you, Doris, for your service to our country and to Judith’s Reading Room!

Celebrating Banned Books Through Dance

Sept. 26, 2013 “The Emotive Powers of Literature: Celebrating Banned Books Through Dance. A Banned Book Week event, an event presented by Judith’s Reading Room at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA The event, created in collaboration with Muhlenberg’s Six Meters improvisational dance ensemble, focused on Persepolis and 40 other books that have been banned and challenged. Persepolis – Marjane Satrapi’s award-winning graphic novel that was removed from Chicago Public School classes earlier this year.

Bryn Mawr Book Donation!

Staff and administrators at Bryn Mawr Rehab Hospital on Malvern PA collected and donated 787 children’s books. The books will go to families with children under the age of 5 where there are no books in the home and to US troops serving at Camp Phoenix in Kabul where they give books to village elders as “peace offerings”.



Judith’s Reading Room Opens Libraries in Japan & Namibia

Judith’s Reading Room opens two new libraries this week in Japan and Namibia.

Japan Library - ParishMarine Moms contacted Judith’s Reading Room to request books for their sons stationed in Japan.  Lcpl Gray Parish announced the opening of a Judith’s Reading Room lending library for his fellow Marines at a base in Japan. He carved space out of his quarters to house the boxes of books volunteer “Boxers” have sent his way. Since September 2010, Judith’s Reading Room has shipped 1,600 books to Marines in Iran, Afghanistan, the Republic of Georgia, Japan Guam and the Philippines.

2013-06-17-Namibia-Schlip-Primary-SchoolA newspaper article about Judith’s Reading Room’s work around the world inspired members of a New Jersey church to contact the organization to help one of their members, a Peace Corps volunteer at Schlip Primary School in Rehoboth, Namibia, stock its deteriorating library.

In Rehoboth, south-central Namibia, a library of children’s elementary books arrived thanks to a collaborative effort between Judith’s Reading Room and members of the Flemington Baptist Church. Until now, the school did not have the resources to provide English books before fifth grade. Schlip serves 150 children from kindergarten to grade 7. English is Namibia’s official language but the people of Rehoboth speak either Africaans or Khoekhoegowab, a “clicking” language. Judith’s Reading Room’s donation of 269 books will offer children the chance to learn English starting in kindergarten.

Sunday school children at Flemington Baptist Church in New Jersey undertook a book drive and reached out to Judith’s Reading Room to supplement their collection. They also raised funds to help offset the cost of shipping books.

Author Jerry Spinelli Chats with Judith’s Reading Room and Teens from Children’s Home of Easton

On May 5, 2013, members of the Judith’s Reading Room Board of Directors hosted teens from the Children’s Home of Easton on a trip to Malvern, Pa. to meet Newberry-winning author Jerry Spinelli. The group spoke to the author at the People’s Light and Theater before attending the play adaption of Spinelli’s novel Stargirl.

jspinelli2Spinelli, who won a Newberry Award in 1991 for Maniac Magee and a Newberry Honor in 1998 for Wringer, spoke with the group for an hour and half. Topics ranged from his first rejected novels to his zeal for pet rats. The teens from Children’s Home Of Easton, all of whom are members of the Judith’s Reading Room weekly book club, had just finished reading his novel Stargirl. The teens asked questions and had their books signed.

When asked why he writes for children and young adults, Spinelli pointed out that writes books about children but not specifically for children. “I let the kids rise up to the story,” Spinelli emphasized. He’s also an advocate for losing with grace. In our times, he explained, we feel a need for everyone to win all the time, to the point that when our children and young adults meet their inevitable first failure they feel lost.


On the subject of writing, he spoke about how he had sent his first novel to forty publishers, all of whom had rejected it. All four of his first novels were rejected. His fifth book, Space Station Seventh Grade, was published in 1982. His overarching message: “Never give up.”

Judith’s Reading Room appreciates Jerry Spinelli for taking the time to meet and  speak with the teens at Children’s Home of Easton and members of the Judith’s Reading Room.  For more information on Jerry Spinelli, Star Girl and his other books including the ones below, please visit his website

Stargirl by Jerry SpinelliSpace Station Seventh Grade by Jerry SpinelliWringer by Jerry SpinelliManiac Magee by Jerry SpinelliHokey Pokey by Jerry Spinelli

Libraries dedicated in Cambodia for “Scavenger Children”

On Sunday, April 14, Robert Lucas returned to his ancestral home in Cambodia with two boxes full of children’s books, the latest donations from Judith’s Reading Room.

On Saturday, May 4, Judith’s Reading Room dedicated two libraries in Cambodia. The first library of 76 children’s books in English was dedicated in collaboration with A New Day Cambodia, a nonprofit in Phnom Penh that provides food, shelter and education to more than 100 scavenger children either abandoned or forced to pick trash to help support their families. At A New Day Cambodia, children are taught English to increase their opportunities for securing a job, particularly in the tourist industry.

The second library was inaugurated at Anjali House, located near Angkor Wat, home to the famous Buddhist pagoda in Siem Reap. Anjali House serves 110 children between the ages of 4-18, who come from families so poor they are forced to beg on the streets. Anjali House will receive a custom collection of 87 books ranging in topics from photography to football to science.

The books, 163 in all and written in English, include titles such as Green Eggs and Ham, If You Give a Pig a Pancake and A-Z Picture Dictionary, were given to these two organizations that rescue children from the streets and garbage dumps of one of the poorest countries in the world.

Cathy Leiber, cofounder of Judith’s Reading Room met Lucas during a trip to Los Angeles last year where he was working at The World is Just a Book Away. She was looking to expand the organization’s presence in Asia and Lucas offered to personally deliver the books this month when he moves home to care for his grandfather.

“Growing and expanding international collaborations based upon common goals to foster an appreciation of books, and the pleasure of reading, has the potential to create a positive impression of Americans in Cambodia and promote world peace ,” says Leiber.

Cathy Leiber is Recipient of CARE’s 2013 Celebrate Literacy Award

Cathy Leiber, who was named award recipient “for exemplary service in the promotion of literacy” accepted the 2013 Celebrate Literacy Award on behalf of Judith’s Reading Room. Judith’s Reading Room was presented with a check and 24 new books inscribed: “This book is a gift from the Colonial Association of Reading Educators — CARE — to Judith’s Reading Room 2013.”

Celebrate Literacy Award Dinner at Cedar Crest College May 1, 2013

May 1st’s Celebrate Literacy Award dinner at Cedar Crest College. (L to R: Scott Leiber, Ana Luhrs, Linda Wellstein, Cathy Leiber, Daniel Leiber — all of whom are Board of Director members of Judith’s Reading Room — Toni Hoffman, Co-President AAUW Easton, and Kathy Sagl, President, Colonial Association of Reading Educators (CARE).

The purpose of this award is to identify and recognize local individuals, agencies or institutions that have made significant contributions to literacy. Recipients have shown exemplary accomplishments in areas such as direct teaching at any grade level, organizing local literacy programs, conducting research in fields related to literacy and providing young people and adults the opportunity to grow through literacy endeavors.