2022 Freedom Through Literacy Award Winners Announced

2022 FREEDOM THROUGH LITERACY AWARDS
ANNOUNCEMENT!

Jamaica, NY Educator and a Municipal Librarian in Romania Captured Top Awards

2022 Grand Prize Winner of $2,500

Faola Fair (she/they), New York City high school teacher, Grand Prize Winner, 2022 Freedom Through Literacy Award

Fair, a 23-year-old educator and community organizer from Jamaica, New York dominated the field of applicants with her multi-dimensional literacy initiative, “The Reading for Black Lives Project,” garnering the $2,500 top prize award.
Fair is a graduate of Lafayette College and Columbia University’s Teachers College. The aim of the “Reading for Black Lives Project” is to provide sustainable access to free books and literary resources by Black, Indigenous and people of color ((B)IPOC authors for (B)IPOC communities, specifically highlighting and centering the history and knowledge of Black people across the diaspora. Fair’s efforts uplift the community through literacy and eliminate the barriers to access for books by marginalized authors in a way that is both novel and sustainable including book pop-ups that offer free books to the community, the Black Book Fund that supports Black-owned bookstores and the Queens Free Book Fair for All. “Literacy is an essential aspect of social change and liberation,” said Fair.

2022 “Judith’s Award”: $1,500 awarded to the champion of literacy teacher, librarian or author

Ms. Dominique Zara, municipal librarian, Resita, Romania wins the 2022 Freedom Through Literacy “Judith’s Award.”

Zara, a 20-year career Resita Municipal Librarian, wins the coveted Judith’s Award and a cash prize of $1,500.

The Judith’s Award is named in the memory of Judith F. Krug, a librarian and first cousin to the organization’s founders. Zara’s project, “Ready for Life” offers free English classes for children 3-14 years old who do not attend school, children from socially vulnerable families and Roma children. Zara is credited with building the only English learning program in Romania among less fortunate children. In 2014, with the help of Judith’s Reading Room, she established five Judith’s Reading Room libraries serving 70,000 residents. Three of those libraries survive to this day. She says, “my goal is to demonstrate that a library is an indispensable asset in a city and that librarians can do great things for all citizens.”

The Board of Directors names 2022 Board Option prizes:

The next level of awards is completely at the discretion of Judith’s Reading Room Board Members. Each year a total of $1,000 — to be divided depending on the number of high-scoring applicants — is set aside for Board Option Awards.. The winners of the 2022 Board Option Award are:
Dr. Lisette Caesar, past principal and founder of Mosaic Preparatory Academy, East Harlem, NY

Caesar, a Judith’s Reading Room Honorable Mention awardee in 2021, is recognized for her unrelenting optimism and passion to build a reading culture at her Title 1 school that serves a large population living in temporary housing. Her newsworthy project, “Book Vending Machine” capitalizes on a reward system to honor good citizenship with tokens that are used to “purchase” a new book, much like one would purchase a candy bar out of a vending machine. Her brainchild, the “Book Vending Machine” project has been shared with at least five other principals. In recognition of Dr. Lisette’s devotion as founder and principal of Mosaic Preparatory Academy, where the youngest of scholars are prepared for college, Caesar wins a 2022 Board Option Award in the amount of $200.

Ms. Lisa Gerard, founder, Little Read Wagon, in Norman, Oklahoma.
For the 2nd year in a row, Gerard is named a Board Option Award winner. As founder of “Little Read Wagon, Gerard is recognized for her work to close the literacy gap in her community by distributing free books through multiple, creative outreach programs in Oklahoma. No place is off base for Gerard: she offers free books at community free events, establishes “libraries” in laundromats and hides books in 65 public parks. Gerard wins a 2022 Board Option Award in the amount of $200 for her commitment to meet the literacy needs of all who will benefit from book ownership and to increase the number of literate community citizens in Oklahoma.
Ms. Pamela Laskin, poet, author, lecturer, and director of New York City’s 50-year-old Poetry Outreach Center.

Laskin’s work with Poetry Outreach is distinctive: MFA students are sent into under-served communities in NYC in order to write and publish poetry. A new initiative, “Poetry at the Border,” will encourage children whose families are seeking asylum to write poetry about their experience. In this manner, she helps children deal with trauma following horrible events like hurricanes (Puerto Rico), children who are escaping atrocities (Honduras, Nicaragua and Myanmar), and children who are surviving life while housed in camps at the border. For her work to enable children to unload their grief and to empower marginalized voices through poetry, Laskin wins a 2022 Board Option Award in the amount of $200.

Ms. Lisa Tedeschi Vergara, nonprofit founder, Storytime Crafts, Needham, MA.
Vergara’s “Literacy Through Art of the Book” illustrates the power of literacy through art. Her beautifully crafted decoupage book-themed chairs (that are commissioned for public spaces) spread the joy of reading in a unique way. Vergara understands that art engages children in a similar way to reading: both require concentration, focus, observation of details and thoughtful conclusions. Her chairs draw the attention of children, who “read” a story emblazoned on the chair, while crawling around the chair and sitting in it. “The foundation of early literacy is instilling a love of reading so children gain the confidence to reach their full potential, achieve one’s dreams and become powerful thinkers,” states Vergara. For her joyous and creative approach to getting children to see a book in a new way, Vergara wins a 2022 Board Option Award in the amount of $200.
Ms. Jennifer Williams, founder “Second Chance Book Club” at Danville City Jail, Danville, VA., former teacher and guardian of 40 Little Free Libraries
In 2019, Williams founded the“Second Chance Book Club” for incarcerated women at the Danville City Jail. Under Williams’ leadership, 124 inmates (and counting) have read and discussed 71 books, including favorites like The Life We Bury, Where the Crawdads Sing, and Monday’s Not Coming. Her commitment to inmates continues after they are released with “Second Chance Freedom,” a book group that meets once a month for dinner. Williams set an ambitious goal in 2017 to get one million books into the hands of people in need. For her determination to encourage a love of reading and for her enduring commitment to female inmates and formerly incarcerated women, Williams wins a 2022 Board Option Award in the amount of $200.

2022 Honorable Mentions

Finally, Honorable Mention Awards (no cash award) are given to those applicants who the judges want to acknowledge and think deserve encouragement. The idea behind the Honorable Mention Awards is to propel the applicants to continue their literacy efforts and to apply for future Freedom Through Literacy Awards.
Mr. Toti Jean Marc Yale, CEO and founder of nonprofit Education and English for You, “Reading First,” Abidjan, Ivory Coast.
Yale’s project, “Reading First” promotes free book giveaways and reading of quality literacy starting with toddlers from disadvantaged family backgrounds. The organization promotes gender equality and English on a voluntary basis. For Yale’s outreach to international organizations and programs to help eradicate illiteracy in his West African nation, Judith’s Reading Room, through the 2022 Honorable Mention designation, wishes to give Yale global recognition and encouragement.
Ms. Anita Jo Paukovits, Executive Director, Children’s Home of Easton (CHE), Easton, PA.
CHE, a “home away from home” has served neglected, traumatized, and abused youth throughout the state of PA since 1885. In 2012, in collaboration with Judith’s Reading Room, CHE staff member Marlene Arnholt, established a monthly Book Group,“The Children’s Home of Easton Book Club for At-Risk Youth” that brings residents together to “get lost” in the world of reading and imagination. Judith’s Reading Room honors Marlene and her colleagues at CHE for maintaining a selection of over 4,000 books that help make CHE a ‘home’ for these youth. In their honor, Paukovits and Arnholt are designated a 2022 Honorable Mention.

The 2022 Freedom Through Literacy Award winners will be acknowledged at an invitation-only ZOOM Award Celebration on Sunday, September 18th.

Judith’s Reading Room’s mission is to enrich lives and societies by proactively encouraging Freedom Through Literacy.  To date, the organization has fulfilled that mission by establishing 103 libraries (and counting!) in 22 countries with 131,000 books worth over $1.4 million.
The Freedom Through Literacy Award was initiated in 2015 as the organization’s signature event.  Including the 2022 winners, the organization will have disbursed $48,500 in cash awards to 47 champions of literacy.  Winners hail from 14 countries:  Australia, Bhutan, Cambodia, Cyprus, Greece, Honduras, Ivory Coast, Mexico, Pakistan, the Philippines, Romania, Rwanda, the U.S.A. and Zimbabwe.  Winners from the U.S.A. come from 9 states:  Arizona, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas and Virginia.

The 2023 FREEDOM THROUGH LITERACY AWARD APPLICATION WILL BE AVAILABLE ONLINE IN JANUARY 2023

 

2021 Holiday Book Drive ….Books Not Toys, For a Change *UPDATED*

Books Not Toys, For a Change..Info & Updates
Barnes & Noble Patrons in Wyomissing Help Improve Lives

Judith’s Reading Room, a 501(c)3 based in eastern PA was selected — for the 2nd year in a row — as the Barnes & Noble Wyomissing PA 2021 Holiday Book Drive Charity.  From November 1st, and running straight through the holiday season — patrons at the location were able to donate a book or two at checkout for a child in need and forever change that child’s life.

As an alternative to the expected toy shortage this holiday season, Judith’s Reading Room suggests that families consider buying books not toys — books for your family and for families who cannot afford to buy them.  Barnes & Noble makes this act of generosity easy.

“Since Judith’s Reading Room’s inception in 2010, Barnes & Noble has placed confidence in our ability to get donated books into the hands of less fortunate children here and around the world,” noted Cathy Leiber, President, Judith’s Reading Room.  She added, “It is impossible to state how emotional it is for families to receive new books.”

Barnes and Noble Holiday Book Drive for Judith’s Reading room UPDATES!

Thank you for all of these wonderful photos! They really tug on the booksellers’ heartstrings when they look through them!
Michael Burger
Barnes & Noble
Wyomissing PA 2021
@BNReadingPA

APRIL 24, 2022 …

Where does the time go?  We finally have our Cat Tales- Kids Reading to Cats program back in full swing.

As promised. I am sending you some photos of the kiddos reading the Barnes and Nobles books that your organization donated to us.  The first photo is of a group of Girl Scouts that came to read to the cats and were delighted to see all the new books to choose from.  I had them hold up some of their favorites for the photo.

I’ve attached several photos of our readers in action.  …most of the photos had to be taken through the windows of the rooms so we didn’t disturb the readers or the cats.  In one of the photos you’ll see how the kittens all swarmed around the little boy reading to them.  In another photo you will see a black kitten trying to escape in the backpack of one of the readers.  Don’t worry we check backpacks, purses and sweatshirts with large pockets before anyone leaves the shelter to make sure they don’t have a stow-away with them.  Many times the reader has to do double duty –reading and petting at the same time.   Enjoy!
Thanks again for sending us the books.
Karen Brown
Caring for Cats

FEBRUARY 28, 2022 … These are the photos (and video!) from Resita City, Romania. This wraps up the sharing of the distribution of the 2022 Holiday Book Drive books Judith’s Reading Room donated thanks to the generosity of patrons at the Wyomissing Barnes & Noble – thanks always to Michael and his B&N colleagues.

FEBRUARY 17, 2022 … Photos of Barnes & Noble books we donated to award-winning teacher, Joicki Floyd, East Side High School, Newark, NJ.  Joicki tells us the 10th and 12th grade students “were excited” and “chose their own book.”

FEBRUARY 1, 2022… Fantastic — adorable — inspiring photos from our 2020 Grand Prize Freedom Through Literacy Award winner, Chris McGilvery, in Texas! Please see the video for the children’s lovely thank you!

JANUARY 30, 2022… Here photos from Rev. Dr. Leoda Topps, pastor of the SME Church in Mississippi.
Dr. Topps, a Ph.D. In Education, helps children with their homework after school.

JANUARY 27, 2022… The books arrived in Chinle, AZ, Navajo Nation…finally! The woman in the photo is Alvira, who put the books from Barnes & Noble into the temporary, first-ever, mobile library on the reservation, that serves 128,000 residents.

JANUARY 24, 2022…  Photos of books being distributed by Little Read Wagon, Norman, Oklahoma.

JANUARY 21, 2022… Please see these exceptional photos of books — donated during the 2021 Barnes & Noble Holiday Book Drive — that were shipped and received by Derek Witmer’s 2nd grade in Harrisburg. We are thrilled that the books are loved so much!

JANUARY 21, 2022… Below please see a few photos from Mosaic Preparatory Academy. The generous books from Barnes & Noble have made a noticeable difference there!

Hi Cathy!
Please find attached the photos of the wonderful book donations you provided us through Barnes and Noble!
In the photos is one of our scholars who “purchased” a SpongeBob book, our library display so that kids could browse the new books for the vending machine, and some of the books featured in the vending machine!
Thank you so much for your generous donations. The kids are so excited!
Ariel
Professor Ariel Birdoff (she/they)
School Library Media Specialist
Mosaic Preparatory Academy

JANUARY 19, 2022… JRR donated 46 YA books to Children’s Home of Easton yesterday.  The books were hand-picked out of the generous 2021 Barnes & Noble Holiday Book Drive.  In May, 2012, JRR established a library at CHE with an initial donation of 450 books.  An important part of that donation was the commitment to support their first-ever Book Group.  Each month for years, JRR bought 10 copies of a book they chose for this literacy-rich experience.  The Book Group is still alive and well all these years later thanks to the superb dedication of CHE’s Marlene Arnholt.

JANUARY 11, 2022… Attached are photos from Harkins House, a juvenile residential center near Portland, Oregon where many YA books were sent. Thank you again to Barnes & Noble for selecting Judith’s Reading Room as their 2021 Holiday Book Drive Charity.

JANUARY 8, 2022 … These photos are ADORABLE!!  Thank you very much for sending them.  And, thank you for following up with photos of the children reading aloud to the kitties!

NOVEMBER 19, 2021...Thank You…Thank You…Thank you…to all the holiday shoppers who have purchased books for Judith’s Reading Room. So far, five large boxes have been picked up and will be sent to many of our libraries and Freedom Through Literacy Award winners throughout the world. Thank you Barnes and Noble, Wyomissing, PA for choosing us as your holiday charity.

Judith’s Reading Room at Mosaic Preparatory Academy

On Friday, Feb. 11th, Scott and Cathy Leiber represented Judith’s Reading Room, the non-profit that made the day long event at  Mosaic Preparatory Academy featuring author Ty Jackson.

Bringing together 2020 Freedom Through Literacy Judith’s Award Winner, Ty Allan Jackson and 2021 Honorable Mention winner Lisette Caesar.

Setting up at Mosaic Preparatory Academy, East Harlem, getting set up with librarian Ariel Birdoff and Ty Allan Jackson.

Kids raise hands because they like money!

On Giving Tuesday. Pennsylvania Non-Profit Packs Book Vending Machine at Mosaic Prep Academy in East Harlem, NY

On this Giving Tuesday, Judith’s Reading Room, a nonprofit literacy organization based in eastern Pennsylvania with offices in New York City, joined hands with its 2021 Freedom Through Literacy Award winner, Dr. Lisette Caesar, Principal, Mosaic Preparatory Academy in East Harlem to “stuff” her school’s first-of-its-kind Book Vending Machine with 50 children’s books.

Judith’s Reading Room donated the books thanks to generous patrons at the Wyomissing, PA Barnes & Noble.  That store chose Judith’s Reading Room for the 2nd year in a row as its “Holiday Book Drive Charity.”  Mosaic Prep Academy is just one of a a dozen recipient organizations that Judith’s Reading Room has selected to receive the donated books. Today’s Giving Tuesday gift of 50 hand-picked books is valued at $436.

The Book Vending Machine is the brainchild of Dr. Caesar in response to her students’ less than enthusiastic passion for reading following the shutdown of schools as a result of COVID-19.  To spark a renewed passion for reading, scholars earn coupons for being good Samaritans or for reading a certain number of books.  They exchange coupons for a token to unlock a book of their choice from the bright blue Book Vending Machine.  

To entice even the youngest scholars, Judith’s Reading Room selected “I Can Read!” books as well as Caldecott Medal winners such as Drummer Hoff, and all-time favorites including The Story of Ferdinand and The Runaway Bunny.  “The key to excite a child to read is simple.  “You need to give them books that they want to read, that they choose to read,” stated Cathy Leiber, President and Co-Founder, Judith’s Reading Room.

Judith’s Reading Room’s mission is to enrich lives and societies by proactively encouraging freedom through literacy.  That mission has been fulfilled by establishing 103 libraries in 22 countries with nearly 131,000 books donated worth over $1.4 million. Its annual Freedom Through Literacy Award offers cash prizes to champions of literacy around the world.  Visit www.judithsreadingroom.org to learn more about previous winners and how to apply for the 2022 Award beginning in early January 2022.

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Judith’s Reading Room Packs Book Vending Machine

On Giving Tuesday. Pennsylvania Non-Profit Packs Book Vending Machine at Mosaic Prep Academy in East Harlem, NY

On this Giving Tuesday, Judith’s Reading Room, a nonprofit literacy organization based in eastern Pennsylvania with offices in New York City, joined hands with its 2021 Freedom Through Literacy Award winner, Dr. Lisette Caesar, Principal, Mosaic Preparatory Academy in East Harlem to “stuff” her school’s first-of-its-kind Book Vending Machine with 50 children’s books.

Judith’s Reading Room donated the books thanks to generous patrons at the Wyomissing, PA Barnes & Noble.  That store chose Judith’s Reading Room for the 2nd year in a row as its “Holiday Book Drive Charity.”  Mosaic Prep Academy is just one of a a dozen recipient organizations that Judith’s Reading Room has selected to receive the donated books. Today’s Giving Tuesday gift of 50 hand-picked books is valued at $436.

The Book Vending Machine is the brainchild of Dr. Caesar in response to her students’ less than enthusiastic passion for reading following the shutdown of schools as a result of COVID-19.  To spark a renewed passion for reading, scholars earn coupons for being good Samaritans or for reading a certain number of books.  They exchange coupons for a token to unlock a book of their choice from the bright blue Book Vending Machine.  

To entice even the youngest scholars, Judith’s Reading Room selected “I Can Read!” books as well as Caldecott Medal winners such as Drummer Hoff, and all-time favorites including The Story of Ferdinand and The Runaway Bunny.  “The key to excite a child to read is simple.  “You need to give them books that they want to read, that they choose to read,” stated Cathy Leiber, President and Co-Founder, Judith’s Reading Room.

Judith’s Reading Room’s mission is to enrich lives and societies by proactively encouraging freedom through literacy.  That mission has been fulfilled by establishing 103 libraries in 22 countries with nearly 131,000 books donated worth over $1.4 million. Its annual Freedom Through Literacy Award offers cash prizes to champions of literacy around the world.  Visit www.judithsreadingroom.org to learn more about previous winners and how to apply for the 2022 Award beginning in early January 2022.

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Jabulani Community Center-Judith’s Reading Room Library #103

Adult Community Literacy Program awarded a custom Judith’s Reading Room Library

November 21, 2021 — Judith’s Reading Room dedicated its 103rd library today at Jabulani Community Center in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe.  This custom library contains books designed for teenagers and adults who, for whatever reason, find themselves grown but not fully literate.

The difficulty was to find appropriate adult-level reading materials with locally relevant stories.  Books were out of print but soft copies were provided on the website of a South Africa publisher.  The library contains very simple entry-level reading books to more complex and detailed stories. Primary and secondary teachers facilitate the program in the evening, earning them additional income.

“Giving teenagers and adults in any country, in any community, the opportunity to come to a community center and learn to read without judgement helps empower parents and raise literate children,” said Cathy Leiber, President, Judith’s Reading Room.

This is the second library Judith’s Reading Room has dedicated in Zimbabwe with its nonprofit literacy partner, Children in the Wilderness.  “Watching someone work their way through a sentence that they weren’t able to do before is truly heart-warming,” states Sarah Adams,  CHE.

 

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Judith’s Reading Room visits 2021 Honorable Mention Winner! Updated!

November in NYC with 2021 Honorable Mention Freedom Through Literacy Award winner, Dr. Lisette Caesar

Early November…

Judith’s Reading Room’s 2021 Honorable Mention Freedom Through Literacy Award winner, Dr. Lisette Caesar, Principal, Mosaic Preparatory Academy and Asst. Principal Jacqueline Wilson plus Scott and Cathy Leiber met in early November in NYC to discuss her innovative literacy initiatives at Mosaic Preparatory Academy in East Harlem. Photo US Above: Scott Leiber, Jacqueline Wilson, Dr. Lisette Caesar. Below: Dr. Lisette Caesar and Cathy Leiber.

Scott and Cathy Leiber of Judith’s Reading Room was honored to attended the ribbon cutting for a creative, cutting-edge innovation – a book vending machine at Mosaic Preparatory Academy in East Harlem, New York. One of our 2021 Honorable Mention Freedom Through Literacy Award winners, Lisette Caesar, was the brain child of this project.

One memorable comment from a student was “I thought I would never see a vending machine with books. I’ve only seen them with candy.”💕

Harrisburg, PA Schools Win Recognition for their “Diversity & Inclusion” Library

NEWS RELEASE

CONTACT: Cathy Leiber
www.JudithsReadingRoom.org

Harrisburg, PA. Schools Win Recognition for their “Diversity & Inclusion” Library
 Books give power to open discussion about topics at any grade level.
October 14, 2021 — Diversity and inclusion in the classroom starts early in Harrisburg, PA schools, thanks to the leadership and initiative of an exemplary second grade teacher.  Derek Witmer, winner of a 2021 Judith’s Reading Room Freedom Through Literacy Award, developed and curated a “Diversity and Inclusion” library at Paxtonia Elementary School as a tool to share with fellow teachers.

Hailed by his principal, Julia Batdorf, as a “conscientious and exemplary teacher,” Witmer’s important project is now replicated in a second school with a donation of $500 from Judith’s Reading Room.  South Side Elementary School in Harrisburg, PA under the leadership of 2nd grade teacher Stacey Chyr, is the recipient of Judith’s Reading Room’s 102nd library. “The library is up and running,” said Chyr.  She added, “The teachers are really excited about having such a great collection of books.”  Twenty-six books will be available to just over 800 students in grades Kindergarten through Fifth grade.

Curated by Derek Witmer, the library includes books which touch on topics such as general diversity, acceptance, gender identity, familial make ups, disabilities, and SEL; as well as stories about a student who has a parent in prison, or families dealing with immigration or language barriers, and stories that tackle with the loss of a parent.  “The extensive range of books Derek curated sheds light on the complexity and reality of students in classrooms across America today,” said Cathy Leiber, President, Judith’s Reading Room.

“The more representation we are able to see in our children’s literature, the more accepting and inclusive a world we can build,” said Witmer.

Resources and discussion cards accompany the library for teachers to familiarize themselves with the topics and feel comfortable leading discussions with their students.

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 establishing 102 libraries in 22 countries with over 128,000 books worth nearly $1.4 million.

Applications for the 2022 Freedom Through Literacy Award will be posted on the website at www.judithsreadingroom.org in January 2022.

 

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Banned Books Weeks Visit to Titcomb’s Bookshop

In celebration of Banned Books Week, Scott and Cathy Liber, co-founders of Judith’s Reading Room, visited Titcomb’s Bookshop, Sandwich, MA. On the right, is Ellen Speers, manager of this outstanding independent bookstore founded in 1969 in MA by the Titcomb family.
Titcomb’s Bookshop had a large display of banned books in honor of the week.
“ADVANCE LITERACY”
#judithsreadingroom#bannedbooksweek
#independentbookstores#titcombs#literacy

2021 Freedom Through Literacy Awards Announced

NEWS RELEASE

CONTACT: Cathy Leiber
www.JudithsReadingRoom.org

2021 Freedom Through Literacy Awards Announced

Winning Applications Highlighted Exceptional Creativity and Impact

 

July 22, 2021 — Ms. Angela Chalkiopoulou, Limassol, Cyprus, declared Grand Prize Winner of the 2021 Freedom Through Literacy Award.   Chalkiopoulou, an educator, dominated the field of applicants with her literacy project, “Alice in Writer’s Land,” winning her the top prize of $2,500.  A colleague described Angela as “a future literacy marvel and an excellent example of how creative teachers can turn inspiration into action, changing the way children perceive themselves towards literacy.” Alice in Writer’s Land collaborates with artists, educators, writers and illustrators—introducing the children of Cyprus to the writer’s way of thinking. “Literature is the absolute source of inspiration, the joy of human intellect, when combined with ingenious art and multimedia toolkits, it can transform a classroom into a small collaborating and learning society, offering the prospect of a hopeful future for all of us,” said Chalkiopoulou.

 

Ms. Joicki Floyd, Newark, New Jersey wins the 2021 Freedom Through Literacy “Judith’s Award.”    Floyd, a high school teacher whose literacy initiative “Y.O.U.T.H.” (You Open Up Then Heal) seeks to transform the lives of inner city children and their families through reading is awarded $1,500.  Joicki’s creative program includes the use of Socratic Seminars and discussion panels with Newark Mayor Ras Baraka.  She articulated the essential idea that in books, youth who lack hope and positive influences, can find positive motivation, examples and influences.  “If you build libraries in the hearts of the youth, you will empower them with points of reference that may change the trajectory of their lives,” stated Floyd.  The Judith’s Award is named in the memory of Judith F. Krug, a librarian who dedicated her career at the American Library Association to protecting the freedom of speech.

 

At the discretion of Judith’s Reading Room’s Board Members, each year, $1,000, is set aside for Board Option Awards to recognize high-scoring applicants.  The winners of the 2021 Board Option Award are:

 

Ms. Sue Goatley, nonprofit leader, Children in the Wilderness, “Jabulani Community Literacy Programme,” in the Zambezi Region, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe.  Goatley, a 2019 Board Option Award winner and recipient of Judith’s Reading Room’s 100th library dedicated July 2021 at Ziga Primary School, has once again captured the judges’ attention with her acute description — and solution — of adult illiteracy.  She writes, “Seeing a young child struggle learning to read can often seem like an uphill battle.  However, a truly heart-breaking scene is watching a young teen, new into high school, staring blankly at a page.”  Goatley’s community literacy program at Jululani Primary School is an evening program available to teenagers and adults with any level of literacy.  It also offers an opportunity for teachers to earn additional income.  For her work to de-stigmatize adult illiteracy in isolated and rural Matabeleland North, Zimbabwe, Goatley wins a 2021 Board Option Award in the amount of $400.

 

Ms. Lisa Gerard, founder, Little Read Wagon, in Norman, Oklahoma.  In 2020, Gerard had a kernel of an idea that grew into an ambitious grassroots outreach effort to supply new and donated books to children living in “book desert communities” in Norman and surrounding areas.  Lisa built a mini “library” at a local laundromat then added a lending library and a volunteer program to collect and distribute culturally relevant books at community events.  In just one year, Gerard has distributed more than 10,000 books to children and adults.  Ms. Breea Clark, Mayor, City of Norman endorsed Gerard adding, “This outreach program engages and inspires a great love for reading with a passionate ambition in bridging the literacy gap in the Oklahoma City Metro area.” For her joyous, passionate and creative approach to getting books into the hands of her fellow citizens, Gerard wins a 2021 Board Option Award in the amount of $300.

 

Mr. Derek Witmer, 2nd Grade Teacher, “Diversity and Inclusion Library,” in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.  Described by his Principal as “a conscientious and exemplary teacher, a true difference maker and a positive force in modern education,” Witmer initiated a collection of literature — a curated library — that touches on important topics such as general diversity, acceptance, gender identity, familial make ups, and SEL.    This 2nd grade teacher didn’t stop there.   Also included are stories where a student has a parent in prison, families dealing with immigration, language barriers and stories dealing with the loss of a parent.  He enhanced the library by creating resources and discussion cards for teachers.  It is no wonder that other schools in his district have reached out to him for help in adopting his Diversity and Inclusion Library.  Derek believes that “Literature has the power to change the world, and I’m glad to be able to have an impact on the upcoming generations.”  In recognition of his compassion toward students who experience and struggle through things that most of us can never truly understand, Witmer wins a 2021 Board Option Award in the amount of $300.

 

To encourage and propel certain 2021 applicants to continue their efforts and to re-apply for the 2022 Freedom Through Literacy Award, the judges declared the following Honorable Mentions (no cash award):

 

Ms. Lisette Caesar, Educator, “Mirroring our Kids,” in East Harlem, New York.  Caesar’s project is to fill her classroom libraries with books that have protagonists that look like the children she educates.  She emphasizes, “Kids asking us to provide more books about their culture or with characters that look like them —  is a first for us.” In recognition of Caesar’s belief “that it is important that impressionable black and brown kids see themselves in positive ways in the books they read,” Judith’s Reading Room, through the Honorable Mention designation, wishes to give Caesar global recognition and encouragement.

 

Ms. Simon Ke, Executive Director, Anjali House, “Mobile Library Project,” in Siem Reap, Cambodia.  Anjali House’s Mobile Library used tuk-tuks (a common mode of transportation in Cambodia) to reach over 850 students in remote villages.  COVID restrictions have prevented its expansion. In recognition of their community outreach, Judith’s Reading Room seeks to bring global attention to the literacy work currently “stopped in its tracks” in this well-known tourist destination near Angkor Wat, where Judith’s Reading Room dedicated a library in May 2013.

 

Judith’s Reading Room’s mission is to enrich lives and societies by proactively encouraging Freedom Through Literacy.  To date, the organization has fulfilled that mission by establishing 101 libraries (and counting!) in 22 countries with 130,500 books worth over $1.4 million.

 

The Freedom Through Literacy Award was initiated in 2015 as the organization’s signature event.  Including the 2021 winners, the organization will have disbursed $43,500 in cash awards to 40 unique champions of literacy.  Freedom Through Literacy Award winners — 2015-2021 — hail from the United States, the Philippines, Bhutan, Pakistan, Rwanda, Cambodia, Mexico, Australia, Zimbabwe, Greece and Cyprus.

 

 

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Ziga Primary School (Finally) Opens – Judith’s Reading Room 100th library!

Very much delayed but with much gratitude and excitement, we have finally been able to call Ziga Primary School’s library the 100th Judith’s Reading Room library!  Due to schools been closed in Zimbabwe as a result of Covid-19 from March 2020 – March 2021, our much anticipated unveiling of Judith’s Reading Room’s 100th library at Ziga had to wait until we were able to visit schools again.

Thanks to the award that Ziga Primary won last year through Judith’s Reading Room, we were able to purchase 113 early reading books to add to the school library. The books were carefully chosen to suit the needs of the school and the students. There are just over 150 students enrolled at Ziga, from ages 5 – 14. Due to the low literacy levels in southern African schools, the Oxford University Press South Africa New Way early reading books provide an ideal platform from which to help students learn to read and gain comprehension skills. They have various levels that students can work through as they improve, and all the books are locally relevant stories full of pictures and bright colours. These were combined with other early reading books that have come highly recommended for southern Africa, creating a wonderful new addition of resources for the school library.

The books made a long journey themselves, all the way from Durban in South Africa, up to Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. From Victoria Falls we then took them 230 kilometers to Ziga, which is located south of Hwange National Park on the western boundary of Zimbabwe.

Judith’s Reading Room partnered with the African non-profit organization, Children in the Wilderness, winner of its 2019 Freedom Through Literacy Award Board Option Prize.   Thus began our relationship with Children in the Wilderness.  In 2020, Judith’s Reading Room and Children in the Wilderness agreed to dedicate a Judith’s Reading Room library, knowing that it would be the organization’s 100th library in its 22nd country.  Ziga Primary School, described as an outstanding pillar in their community — as its library also doubles as an adult literacy center — was chosen.  The original plan was to dedicate the library in August 2020, but the pandemic got in the way.  Schools in Zimbabwe closed in March 2020; children just returned to school for the first-time in a year.

A donation of US$500 to Children in the Wilderness resulted in the purchase of 113 level-specific books. Due to low literacy levels in southern African schools, books to help students learn to read and gain comprehension skills were of paramount importance.  “The distribution of these books came as such a welcome surprise to the teachers and students at Ziga,” said Sarah Adams, Children in the Wilderness’s Community Sustainability & Evaluation Trainer.  Sue Goatley, the organization’s Program Manager added, “We would like to say a huge thank you to Judith’s Reading Room for this wonderful gift that will continue to inspire children at Ziga for years to come.”

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 establishing 101 libraries in 22 countries with more than 130,000 books donated worth US$1.4 million.

Applications for the 2021 Freedom Through Literacy Award, the organization’s signature annual event, is posted on its website at www.judithsreadingroom.org. The deadline for applications is fast approaching:  July 1, 2021.  Winners will be announced by the end of July.

 

 

 

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