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Grand Prize $3,000
Matthew Weimann and Julia Dweck
“Release Your Fireflies” — Macungie, Pa
“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.
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 $500
“FleetwoodSUMMER 2018”— Fleetwood, Pa
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 Option $300
“Mini-Library for Lehigh Valley H.O.P.E.”— Easton, Pa
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
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
“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
“Bringing Up a Bookworm”— Leesport, Pa
“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.”
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
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
Lehigh Valley, Pa. – February 19, 2017 — Judith’s Reading Room, a local literacy nonprofit organization founded in 2010, announces changes to its third annual Freedom Through Literacy Award. The Award honors 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.
Two changes were voted unanimously by the organization’s Board of Directors at its Annual Meeting that materially affect the organization’s 2017 “Freedom Through Literacy Award.”
First, in order to continue funding the Award into the future, without solicitation for contributions, the Board voted to change the prize money structure for the Award. Beginning with the 2017 Award, the top prize winner will receive $3,000 cash and one (1) runner-up will receive $1,000 cash. One Honorable Mention will receive $500 worth of new books to support their program.
Second, in order to conserve resources and to recognize that any international winner would most likely not be able to fly to the United States to attend an award dinner, the organization will not announce its winners at the Keystone State Reading Association conference. Instead, winners will be announced on the organization’s website and through social media no later than the end of July, 2017.
The Application for the 2017 Freedom Through Literacy Award is available on line and the deadline for applications is July 7, 2017.
Since its inception, Judith’s Reading Room has dedicated 95 libraries in 18 countries containing 127,179 books worth nearly $1.4 million.