Building first-time libraries, visit by visit

The core of Judith’s Reading Room is the belief that books change lives. At Casa Guadalupe in Allentown, Pennsylvania, children under five are bringing home their first books thanks to a creative partnership.

The first thing you see when you visit the Women, Infant and Children (WIC) Program at Casa Guadalupe in Allentown is a bright red cart of books. Small books, big books, books with wheels, and books with fuzzy fur poking out the covers. It’s a tantalizing display of literary delight, and it is hard to resist when you are five and under.

“Kids are crying and begging for books every time that they come to their appointment,” says former Freedom Through Literacy honoree and WIC Program Coordinator Dawn Bush. “They even still ask for books over stickers!” Moms love the program, too. At each visit, they can bring home a book to add to their child’s library–a luxury many cannot afford on their own.

Started in April 2013, the Birth-2-Five Initiative was Judith’s Reading Room’s answer to the 30-million word gap. Research shows that by age three, a child in poverty hears 30 million fewer words than a child from a middle-income home. This impacts a child’s ability to compete with his peers once he reaches elementary school and can have damaging effects on confidence, self-worth, and academic growth.

After a recent audit by Maternal & Family Health Services, the overseeing agency of the WIC program, it was recommended that books be added to the nutritionist’s office so children had something to focus on, giving their families quality uninterrupted time to listen to the important information the nutritionist was sharing.

Since the inception of the Birth-2-Five Initiative, Judith’s Reading Room has donated 15,649 children’s books to the WIC Program at Casa Guadalupe, building countless home libraries and changing lives.


Do you know a Champion of Literacy in your community? Do them a favor and share the 2019 Freedom Through Literacy Award application with them!