TOP AWARD – 2018 Freedom Through Literacy

Top Award $3,000

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

Matthew Weinmann, Ibiyinka Alao and Julia Dweck

Matthew Weinmann, Ibiyinka Alao and Julia Dweck

“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.”

2018 BOARD OPTIONS – 2018 Freedom Through Literacy

2018 Board Option $300

Christopher Dew
“Mini-Library for Lehigh Valley H.O.P.E.”— Easton, Pa

 

Christopher Dew

Christopher Dew

Christopher established his library at Lehigh Valley H.O.P.E., an organization that provides clothes and household goods to the homeless. He did this as his Boy Scout’s of America Eagle Project, making him the youngest recipient of a Judith’s Reading Room Freedom Through Literacy Award. Under his leadership, Chris collaborated with other Boy Scouts to build and stain bookcases. He organized a book drive that resulted in the collection of over 600 books. Finally, he obtained furniture and a rug to turn his mini-library into a comfortable reading area. Christopher acknowledges that when you have nothing, the focus is on clothes, food — the basics. For some, books are generally not thought of as a basic need. He disagrees. Chris believes that while literacy is the foundation for education, access is the key element for literacy. Homeless families, whose needs are so great, also need to have access to books, especially children’s books so that they can expand their imagination and see what the world has to offer.

Christopher Dew — “While literacy is the foundation for education, access is the key element for literacy. Literacy is 100% dependent on having access to any kind of reading material. When I found out I was being recognized by Judith’s Reading Room, I was so shocked that I was actually speechless. I’m not even sure how I responded because I really couldn’t believe it.”

2018 Board Option $300

Ana Ramirez Luhrs
“The Leadership Center Library”— Zambrano, Honduras

 

Ana Ramirez Luhrs

Ana Ramirez Luhrs

Lafayette College Skillman Librarian, Ana Luhrs, recently led a group of students to The Leadership Center (TLC) to Zambrano, Honduras to work side-by-side with 25 hand-picked young women eager to develop business and leadership skills. The goal of TLC is to educate, train and develop a new generation of female leaders by providing English immersion, business seminars and leadership training. Nominated by teachers, pastors, community leaders and government officials, this elite group of women, ranging in age from 18-29, watched as Ana curated the fledgling library and learned the importance of creating a culture of reading for pleasure. During Ana’s tenure at TLC, she noticed the gaps in genres that she felt would enhance the students’ experience. Ana has been selected to lead another group of Lafayette College students to TLC in January 2019 where they will hand-carry books to establish the 97th Judith’s Reading Room library in our organization’s 20th country!

Ana Luhrs — “Judith Krug fervently believed in the power of books and their ability to transform lives. With this award, I am honored to carry this message back to the young women leaders of The Leadership Center who are transforming their lives and their communities through education.”

2018 Board Option $200

Cheryl Stoner-Gutshall
“Outdoor Education Book” — York, Pa

Cheryl, an 18-year veteran fifth grade science and social studies teacher, is also responsible for the Dover School District’s common core standards for non-fiction. Brilliantly dovetailing these two responsibilities into the “Outdoor Education Book,”she teaches every 5th grader in the district how to write and publish non-fiction e-books using I-Pads. The outdoor education program covers such diverse topics as stream and pollinator studies, vermi-composting and waste water treatment. Using the Book Creator app, students use their notes, photos and videos to compose a book (see above) about their 2 1/2 day outdoor education adventure. Books are then posted on a digital portfolio, shared district-wide. The book is the culmination of all that the students have learned about non-fiction writing.

Cheryl Stoner-Gutshall — “It is very exciting to have the Outdoor Education of Dover School District recognized by this global non-profit organization. I have always known that the Outdoor Education program was special, but now I know others do too.”

2018 Board Option $200

Marsha Townsend
“Bringing Up a Bookworm”— Leesport, Pa

 Marsha Townsend (left)

Marsha Townsend (left)

“Bringing Up a Bookworm,” a nonprofit initiative by 4th grade teacher Marsha Townsend, educates expectant parents about the value of reading aloud to their child even before he/she is born! Marsha and friends fill literacy-rich gift bags and deliver them to obstetricians’ offices. The doctors and nurses — wholeheartedly trusted by parents-to-be — hand the bags to their patients along with supportive ideas about the importance of reading to their babies and children. The gift bag contains a copy of Reading Magic: How Reading Aloud to Our Children will Change their Lives; a children’s board book and information about the Berks County Library system. Marsha champions the need to read aloud to newborns, infants and toddlers. She acknowledges that read-aloud time provides the basics of how a book works, the language of books, an abundance of vocabulary and bonding time with parents.

 

 

Marsha Townsend — “Both the skills for reading and the love of reading can start to develop at birth.”

TOP PRIZE WINNER- 2017 Freedom Through Literacy Award

National Book Foundation, New York, for their 10 year old literacy project titled, “BookUp.” BookUp is a reading program that serves more than 500 middle school aged children, older teens and young adults, led by published writers in four states. Students discuss quality literature in a book club format, go on field trips to cultural institutions and receive free books to build their home libraries. The Top Prize award is valued at $3,000.  Visit National Book Foundation

2017 Freedom Through Literacy Award Winners Announced

pastedGraphic.png NEWS RELEASE  
CONTACT:  Cathy Leiber
484-661-6151

2017 Freedom Through Literacy Award Winners Announced

July 24, 2017 — Lehigh Valley, Pa. — Judith’s Reading Room proudly announces this year’s Top Prize winner of its 3rd annual Freedom Through Literacy Award is Lisa Lucas, National Book Foundation, New York, for their 10 year old literacy project titled, “BookUp.” BookUp is a reading program that serves more than 500 middle school aged children, older teens and young adults, led by published writers in four states. Students discuss quality literature in a book club format, go on field trips to cultural institutions and receive free books to build their home libraries. The Top Prize award is valued at $3,000.

William Whipple, Easton, Pa, will receive $1,000 for his passionate work with TEACH Rwanda and its project called, “Stories in Kinyarwanda.” Children’s literature in Rwanda is an emerging endeavor and TEACH Rwanda is determined to improve the quality and accessibility of culturally genuine, captivating Rwandan literature for young children. TEACH Rwanda was also a Runner-Up in 2016.

This year’s Honorable Mention is awarded to The Palapa Society of Todos Santos, Mexico. Founded in 2003, this grassroots nonprofit promotes the “love of reading” and bringing literacy to communities without the means or access to books given their high cost and limited availability in Mexico. To support their children’s library, Judith’s Reading Room will purchase $500 worth of new books.

Judith’s Reading Room, a literacy nonprofit based in the Lehigh Valley, Pa, was founded in 2010 in memory of Judith Krug, first cousin to the founders. Judy, a librarian, dedicated her 40 year career at the American Library Association to protect the freedom to read. The mission of Judith’s Reading Room is to enrich lives and societies by proactively encouraging freedom through literacy. To date, the organization has fulfilled that mission by shipping more than 127,000 books to deployed troops and dedicating 95 libraries in 18 countries with books valued at nearly $1.4 million dollars.

Visit our Freedom Through Literacy Award Page

RUNNER UP – 2017 Freedom Through Literacy Award

William Whipple, Easton, Pa, will receive $1,000 for his passionate work with TEACH Rwanda and its project called, “Stories in Kinyarwanda.” Children’s literature in Rwanda is an emerging endeavor and TEACH Rwanda is determined to improve the quality and accessibility of culturally genuine, captivating Rwandan literature for young children. TEACH Rwanda was also a Runner-Up in 2016. Visit Teach Rwanda

HONORABLE MENTION – 2017 Freedom Through Literacy Award



This year’s Honorable Mention is awarded to The Palapa Society of Todos Santos, Mexico. Founded in 2003, this grassroots nonprofit promotes the “love of reading” and bringing literacy to communities without the means or access to books given their high cost and limited availability in Mexico. To support their children’s library, Judith’s Reading Room will purchase $500 worth of new books. Visit The Palapa Society of Todos Santos, Mexico

Dear Cathy,

On behalf of the Palapa Society of Todos Santos, I wanted to let you know that your generous check and beautiful certificate from Judith’s Reading Room were received today. I am leaving for Todos Santos in 2 weeks so the check will be deposited in about three weeks when I arrive.

We are thrilled with the recognition and will use the funds wisely to purchase children’s books (as indicated) and continue the work of literacy in Todos Santos.

Thank you again for this honor.

Sincerely,
Kathy Warnert
Palapa Society of Todos Santos

Dear Ms Leiber,

On behalf of The Palapa Society of Todos Santos, we were delighted to learn of the Honorable mention for the 2017 Freedom Through Literacy Award. This is a great honor and will inspire the many people who work hard to foster bilingual literacy in the greater Todos Santos area.

Please accept our gratitude. We recognize that literacy is the key to future opportunities and we sincerely appreciate this recognition from your organization. We plan to share this news with the students, families, and teacher who will be proud of their achievements.

Sincerely,
Kathy Warnert
Palapa Society of Todos Santos

GRAND PRIZE – 2016 Freedom Through Literacy Award

Ms. Kelly Stoops  “Book Blast”
Allentown, PA

Kellycropped

Described as the “fairy godmother of reading” by the community that loved her, Kelly Stoops rallied her whole life to develop a passion for books and reading in young children in part with her program Book Blast. Her philosophy was simple: give children books when they are young, make them excited about reading, and they’ll become lifelong learners.kelly4-34

Book Blast began at Roosevelt Elementary School in Allentown, where Kelly was a teacher. During Book Blast, parents observe a trained facilitator modeling literacy strategies, which they would then practice with their child. Afterwards, snacks and crafts made the whole night an event!

What strikes an observer immediately is how Book Blast involved the community. Not only were educators and children participating, but also parents, high school and college students, and even volunteers from local businesses and non-profits. No one was unwelcome; Kelly would even visit neighborhoods to personally invite families to attend Book Blast.

The blend of involvement, arts, and kelly6-37literacy was noted as a best practice in the Community Partners for Success (COMPASS) initiative. For a community where around 80% of households in Allentown are considered low-income, and access to books lacking, this program’s effects are huge. Reading proficiency at Roosevelt rose from 34% to 53%, and parental participation at the school significantly increased as well. This grand success led to the adoption of Book Blast in four surrounding Allentown schools.

Throughout Kelly’s 25 years as an educator, she worked day and night,Kelly-from-brochure both in and out of the classroom, to try to ensure that all students have a bright future. We warmly recognize Kelly Stoops as the 2016 Top Prize winner of the Freedom Through Literacy Award for her tireless effort in inspiring children to love reading.