Christopher McGilvery, “Teachers and Student Ambassadors Project” Canyon, Texas
Supporting one another with the power of literacy. For Chris McGilvery, this is the story he wants to tell in his community. Through his work with The Leaders Readers Network, Chris engages teachers across the United States and Dominica to grow leadership and literacy skills for students. The project partners with teachers to facilitate “buddy” teams in which older students read aloud to younger students while also learning about the effects of illiteracy.
To date, Chris and his team have trained 205 students, partnered with 215 teachers, and impacted over 55,000 students’ lives.
It is with great enthusiasm that we honor Chris McGilvery as the Grand Prize winner of the 2020 Freedom Through Literacy Award for his innovative, child-centered approach to foster a love of reading – and leadership! – for children across the United States.
“This award inspires me to continue to build and grow the important work we are doing to support education equity and literacy for all.” -Chris McGilvery
Ty Allan Jackson, “Big Head Books” Bronx, New York
Too often, children’s books represent non-white protagonists within a narrow range of topics. Award-winning author Ty Allan Jackson writes highly engaging books that buck this tradition, offering children who don’t always see themselves in the stories they read the opportunity for a different portrayal of their lives.
His books, including Danny Dollar Millionaire Extraordinaire and The Supadupa Kid superhero series, have garnered the attention of several awards and features on local and national news. More importantly, they have reached countless young Black and other minoritzed children with a powerful message: your story is limitless.
We recognize Ty as winner of the 2020 Judith’s Award for his commitment to expanding narratives with his books.
“As an Indie author winning this award is a surreal experience. Awards usually go to the more established authors. The ones with the big followings and who dominate the bookshelves in bookstores and libraries across the county. Not the authors fighting to be noticed or begging bookstore to carry our works. So this award means that the little guy can make it. Get the accolade and gain the respect of the world of literature. But most importantly receive the love for those we write and draw for…our children.
Thank you for proving that our work matters! -Ty Allan Jackson”
Through her organization, Chinle Planting Hope, Charmaine Tsosie works tirelessly for her Diné (Navajo) community to create educational opportunities for whole families. She and her team will establish a mobile library vibrant with adult and children’s’ books to inspire inter-generational reading habits among families who currently do not have access to a brickand-mortar library in Chinle. We warmly honor Charmaine with a Board Option Award to accelerate her work on the mobile library.
“Winning the award is such an honor to my community and me. It feels like the Navajo Nation is seen and heard.” -Charmaine Tsosie
Board Option Prize – $500
Basarat Kazim, “Camel Library for Kech Balochistan” Lahore, Pakistan
Bringing libraries to sparsely populated communities in Pakistan requires creativity. For Basarat Kazim, the solution wasn’t on four wheels, but four legs. Camels, outfitted with custom-made book pouches, will carry hundreds of books to the district of Kech Balochistan. This effort specifically focuses on young girls, who often don’t have opportunities to attend school in the district. We proudly award Basarat a Board Option Award to help establish the first-ever camel library.
“Your support provides opportunities to thousands of girls to access treasures untold!! May they find the keys to the locked doors that hold them back.” -BasaratKazim
Karen Brown “Cat Tales – Kids Reading to Cats”— St. Paul, Minnesota
Two Sundays a month, Karen Brown opens up her no-kill cat shelter, Caring for Cats, to young children volunteers to practice reading aloud to a very willing audience — dozens of cats! Testimonies from families reveal that children have improved their confidence in reading thanks to the calming and low-pressure atmosphere. For creating a unique and rewarding experience for cats and children alike, we award Karen Brown a 2019 Board Option Award.
CFC Quote from Karen on how she feels about winning a 2019 Freedom Through Literacy Board Option Prize Award:
Thank you to Judith’s Reading Room for recognizing and encouraging the Caring for Cat’s reading program: Cat Tales – Kids Reading to Cats. A cat shelter may seem an unlikely advocate for literacy, but we knew our kitties would help kids fall in love with reading. Not only do the kids get to read stories to a supportive and nonjudgmental audience, they get to see how their words and actions help shy or traumatized kitties connect with people. We see cats showing appreciation to their reader friends with a paw on the shoulder or a nose-to-nose touch. By sharing a story, cats learn that people are okay, and kids learn that reading can be a force for good in all kinds of places and situations. This award reaffirms our commitment to being partners with our community and with organizations like Judith’s Reading Room and our fellow awardees to support literacy. I am personally honored to have Cat Tales receive a 2019 Freedom Through Literacy Board Option Prize Award.
As librarian of the Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center, Kathleen Kapila is showing off her creativity with the creation of Drag Queen Story Hour, a new program in which drag performers read books to young children to encourage both a love of reading and freedom of gender expression. We proudly award Kathleen Kapila a Board Option Award for her efforts.
2019 Board Option – $200
Sue Goatley “Outdoor Education Book” — Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
Sue Goatley has spent the past few years ensuring that St. Mary’s School in the
Hwange Region provides its 845 students with books. For her work to open up their
world through literature, we proudly award Sue a Board Option Award.
2019 Board Option -$200
Chanith Wijeratne “Promoting Conservation Through Inspired Reading”— Essendon, Victoria, Australia
Chanith has been writing about the wildlife of Sri
Lanka, Australia and Africa since the age of six.
With 10 titles under his belt, he has inspired
many children around him to pursue writing and
conservation. For this, we happily award Chanith
a Board Option Award.
Vicky Xanthopoulou- “Let’s Play Book” Potamia, North Greece
Children in the village of Potamia on Thassos Island in North Greece have little access to books; without a library, it had been difficult for the community to foster solid reading skills. That’s why Vicky, an elementary school teacher, jumped into action. She created “Let’s Play Book,” which encourages children to interpret the world around them through reading and playing with books that she and other local authors have created.
In her honor, we announce the establishment of its 98th library in Vicky’s village of Potamia, starting with a donation of 75 children’s books.
We also happily recognize Vicky and her “Let’s Play Book” program as winner of the 2019 Judith’s Award.
Let’s play book (LPB) is a reading promotion project based on sociocultural, constructivist, ecological systems and experiental theories of learning. LPB focuses on the social and cultural dimensions of learning and promotes equal opportunities for all students. Children are encouraged to understand and interpret the world around them through reading and playing with books. By setting the book at the center of the learning process and through a diverse range of reading animations I am trying to create social landscapes inside the classroom which stimulate children and incite them to interact with each other.
I am hugely honored to receive ‘Judith’s Award’ by Judith’s Reading Room whose visionary work and ideals appeal to the highest of my aspirations.
Alvin Irby, a passionate social entrepreneur and former teacher, had a simple idea: why not use the time you get your hair cut to build literacy skills? And with a laser-beam focus, Barbershop Books was born. Irby’s community-based program creates inviting, child-friendly reading spaces in urban barbershops for young black boys.
Originally developed in Harlem, Barbershop Books has spread to 140 barbershops (and counting!) across more than 30 cities and 20 states, reaching 5,600 boys per month.
We warmly honor Alvin Irby as the Grand Prize winner of the 2019 Freedom Through Literacy Award for his creative approach to bring culturally-relevant, age-appropriate, and gender-responsive books to foster literacy skills and a love for reading amongst young black boys.
The 2019 Freedom Through Literacy Award was held at Ammos Estiatorio, New York City on Saturday, September 28th. Each award ceremony has been special it is own, 2019s was an intimate gathering but very powerful with a special presentation by Robert Lucas spoke on what it was like opening 2 Judith’s Reading Room libraries in Cambodia, what the books meant to the children, and how books changed their lives. Alvin Irby, the Grand Prize winner brough three of his colleagues to share in the glory and our Judith’s Award winner, Vicky Xanthopoulou, traveled from Greece along with her husband to accept of her award. In addition to honoring the 2019 Freedom Through Literacy Award Winners, Judith’s Reading Room announced the establishment of the 98th Judith’s Reading Room Library in the Vicky Xanthopoulou’s village of Potamia on the Island of Thassos in North Greece. The initial donation will include 75 custom selected children’s titles. In 2020, the 99th library will be dedicated in Zimbabwe.
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.
Matthew Weimann and Julia Dweck “Release Your Fireflies” — Macungie, Pa
Matthew Weinmann and Julia Dweck (shown here with Ibiyinka Alao)
“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.”
Carin Mileshosky “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.”