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Children at Anjali House, Cambodia

A new photo of children using our books at Anjali House, Cambodia.

Anjali House is a local NGO that is supporting 120 students and their families through education, basic care and the arts. All the children and young adults from 5 to 19 years old come from impoverished families who can’t afford the cost of education and most of the time can only provide a meal a day.

Here is a lshort video that introduces Anjali House

Librarian “Walks the Talk”

Reading in Resita City, Romania

The story here is that one fabulous librarian “walks the talk” when encouraging children to learn to read! Dominique Zara, municipal librarian in Restia City, Romania who is on maternity leave shared these wonderful photos of her 11 month old daughter and “she really love to read her but more than this she love to watch books herself. And I am very proud of her and happy because of this books she knows all the animals and plants and many things!”.
On September 8, 2014, UNESCO’s International Literacy Day, five libraries were dedicated in Resita City, Romania. The five libraries, one of which is named the Judith’s Reading Room Library, serves 70,000 residents. The request from municipal librarian, Dominique Zara, is for a total of 6,000-7,000 books, including books to teach English to city politicians. Her goal with respect to that audience is to demonstrate that a library is an indispensable asset in a city and that librarians can do great things for all citizens.
Dominique told me that the 5 Judith’s Reading Room libraries in Resita City continue to provide opportunities for children to learn English.  When she returns to work from maternity leave she will institute a reading program for the elderly and children.

Children’s Library Opens in Zambia

Judith’s Reading Room announces its 95th Library in its 18th Country

November 29, 2016 — Lehigh Valley, Pa. Judith’s Reading Room, a local literacy nonprofit organization founded in 2010 announced today that it opened its 95th library in the world in its 18th country. The Mukwashi Trust School, serving 385 children in grades Pre-K through 9th, near Lusaka, Zambia is the latest recipient of a custom, hand-picked collection of outstanding children’s literature.

In collaboration with John Farrell, founder of Bridges of Peace & Hope and 2016 Runner-Up of the Freedom Through Literacy Award, Judith’s Reading Room responded to the proven results of Mukwashi Trust School and dedicated itself to providing the perfect books. “These books will help the children learn to read and allow them to expand their horizons and knowledge in ways that will enrich their lives for many years to come,” said Farrell. He added, “the students, teachers and families of Mukwashi Trust School LOVE books and believe that reading and writing connect them to the world beyond the school and beyond their country.”


Judith’s Reading Room sponsors the annual $10,000 Freedom Through Literacy Award open to teachers, librarians, authors, booksellers, non-profit literacy organizations and educators — in a word, anyone in the world who has done exemplary work to instill in others a love of reading. Click here for the online  application the 2017 Freedom Through Literacy Award. Deadline for applying is July 7, 2017.


The Judith’s Reading Room library at Mukwashi Trust School is dedicated in the memory of Nancy Kasso, sister of the co-founders of Judith’s Reading Room. Nancy was an avid animal lover and tireless volunteer who dedicated her life to making and preserving beautiful things. Judith’s Reading Room has eponymous libraries in 18 countries containing a total of 127,179 books valued at nearly $1.4 million dollars. The organization is dedicated to building connections and relationships around the world through adult and children’s literature.

2017 Freedom Through Literacy Award Kickoff

Judith’s Reading Room Kicked-Off its 2017 Freedom Through Literacy Award at PA Statewide Literacy Conference

ksra-2016-kickoff-photoOctober 26, 2016 — Lehigh Valley, Pa. Judith’s Reading Room kicked off its 2017 Freedom Through Literacy Award over the weekend at the 2016 Keystone State Reading Association’s (KSRA) 49th annual conference in Seven Springs, PA. Board members staffed a display that highlighted the organization’s 2016 Award winners and encouraged conference attendees to apply for the 2017 Award. The conference attracted 350 reading specialists, authors, librarians, booksellers, and literacy experts representing myriad disciplines.

The 3rd annual $10,000 Freedom Through Literacy Award, a signature element of Judith’s Reading Room, a non-profit literacy organization founded in memory of Judith Krug, a librarian whose career spanned 40 years with the American Library Association, will honor six individual champions of literacy at KSRAs 50th annual conference in Hershey, PA, October 8-11, 2017. Award winners will headline a best practices panel at the conference to demonstrate how their award-winning initiatives can be replicated.

Applications for the 2017 Freedom Through Literacy Award are available on line at www.JudithsReadingRoom.org/APPLY. Anyone who has done exemplary work to instill in others a love of reading from anywhere in the world is eligible. The Award carries a top prize of $5,000 and up to five $1,000 runners-up awards.

Deadline for applications is July 7 2017. Individuals may self-nominate or others may nominate their favorite literacy champion.

Library at Aitezaz Hussain Shaheed School

Judith’s Reading Room Library at Aitezaz Hussain Shaheed School

The story of the Judith’s Reading Room Library at Aitezaz Hussain Shaheed School   from Basarat Kazim, 2015 Grand Prize winner of the Freedom Through Literacy Award.  Thank you Basarat for sharing!

It was the 6th of January 2014.It was a cold, misty morning. School had been in session for almost a week. Hangu has a long summer break and the winter holidays are brief. Aitezaz had come back to school with his usual smile and helpful attitude. He had also made plans to work really hard and excel in his studies.

Ms. Basart Kazim, "Alif Laila Book Bus Society's Mobile Bus Library"So,happy and alert he was a short distance away from school when a fellow student called out, “Aitezaz, look! That man has something which doesn’t seem right”. Aitezaz looked. The man did too. And in that split second, Aitezaz knew what he must do. He understood the man’s motive. He was approaching the school with ill intentions. He was going to create disaster. Aitezaz ran. The man did the same, but before he could enter the gates of the school, Aitezaz grappled with him. The bomb exploded and the two were no more. One a hero, the other a murderer.

And so Aitezaz Hussain of Hangu, a small district in KPK Pakistan, became a national icon, a legend, a Shaheed ( martyr). At the age of 15, he accomplished what many are not able to in much longer life spans.He gave up his own life for the collective good, choosing to die himself but save hundreds others.

Grieving parents and a traumatised school bore this loss with the quiet dignity and grace that has become Pakistan’s lot. So many of its daughters and sons are repeatedly swallowed up by the evil tentacles of terrorism!

When the 1st Judith Reading Room’s library arrived in Pakistan, Aitezaz’s school seemed the right home for it, and so that is where it went, along with furniture, some more books and materials so that the school could have its own library.

The school has lessons in Urdu, Pakistan’s national language, but English is taught as a subject. The students had access to English story books and fiction for the first time. While talking to some teachers from the school I learnt that the high school has been extended to twelve grades now, instead of the previous ten. The older boys who are keen to enhance their skills and knowledge come to the library before school or during free periods to enjoy the books. The dictionary has become a great favourite as they look up meanings of words they don’t know. And the books are opening up new worlds to them. They are reading stories about other lands, other young people and building bridges between cultures. Walls that separate people into ‘the other’ are crumpling. So for Mohammad Shams, aged 10, the library forms another world, one he visits to pick up books, look at their pictures and form words that make up the  story. He has one chicken, two goats and a cow at home so stories about animals appeal to him.

Afaq Hussain turned 14 this year. He wants to study medicine and plays cricket in his spare time. Sitting and reading in the library is a favourite past time.

It allows him to dream about his future!

Muallim Ali is 18 years old. He spends volunteer hours at the National Institute of Pharmacy and is keen to learn more about disease control. He also wants more knowledge to further his hobby, and also the family’s need, of growing vegetables.

Books are broadening horizons and creating new possibilities. Thank you Judith’s Reading Room for entering the lives of school children in Hangu, Pakistan.

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.


Judith’s Reading Room Donates 1,000 Books to Allentown Kids

Judith’s Reading Room donates 1,000 books to Allentown kids



Judith’s Reading Room donated more than 1,000 new books valued at $5,000 to honor its 2016 Grand Prize “Freedom Through Literacy” Award winner, Kelly Stoops.

Kelly, a beloved Allentown teacher, passed away in July, 2015. In her memory, teachers at Roosevelt Elementary School celebrated Kelly’s award winning literacy program at a “Book Blast.” Every child in the school received a book in Kelly’s memory. At the end of the school term, 81 children, 77 parents and 33 volunteers brought books to life through costumed story characters and read to lead groups where parents observed a trained facilitator modeling literacy strategies for them to practice at home with their children.


A major goal of this community-driven literacy program is to prevent ‘summer slide,’ during which students regress due to lack of books and no reading. The 3rd annual $10,000 Judith’s Reading Room “Freedom Through Literacy” Award will honor individual champions of literacy from all disciplines around the world — teachers, librarians, authors, booksellers and educators — anyone who has done exemplary work to instill in others a love of reading.


Applications for the 2017 Award will be available on line in the fall at www.judithsreadingroom.org. Since its inception, Judith’s Reading Room has opened 94 libraries in 17 countries with 127,000 books worth nearly $1.4 million. The organization has awarded $20,000 to 10 global champions of literacy.

GRAND PRIZE – 2016 Freedom Through Literacy Award

Ms. Kelly Stoops  “Book Blast”
Allentown, PA


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.