BOARD OPTIONS – 2019 Freedom Through Literacy

2019 Board Option Award – $300

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.

2019 Board Option – $300

Kathleen Kapila
“LGBT Children’s Literacy: Drag Queen Story Hour”— Allentown, Pennsylvania

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

ChanithWijeratneChanith 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.


JUDITH’S AWARD – 2019 Freedom Through Literacy

Judith’s Award $500

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.

GRAND PRIZE – 2019 Freedom Through Literacy

Grand Prize Award – $3,000

Alvin Irby, “Barbershop Books”
New York, New York

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.

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