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.
Cynthia Jacobsen, Ph.D. – “Rhyming to Reading: Early Literacy Curriculum”
Cynthia Jacobsen, Ph.D. Speech Pathologist and Researcher, Longmont, Colorado for her life-work project, “Rhyming to Reading: Early Literacy Curriculum.” Dr. Jacobsen, co-authored Rhyming to Reading, an early literacy program for children 4-7 whose goal was to create a program to help young children learn skills that are highly predictive of early reading success. Thousands of children participated in the group classes at Children’s Mercy Hospitals and Clinics for 20 years prior to the COVID pandemic. Dr. Jacobsen collected evidenced based outcomes and clinical data to develop the program. She says, “Literacy instruction must be evidenced-based, with methods which are known to help children.” For her life-time devotion to helping children and families learn methods to overcome literacy challenges such as dyslexia, Judith’s Reading Room wishes to give Dr. Jacobsen global recognition through an Honorable Mention.
“Literacy involves the entire family. When families know how to model early literacy skills in a fun and multi-sensory manner, children experience success.”
– Cynthia Jacobsen
Joseph Tsongo – “Amani Academy for Peace Literacy”
Goma, North-Kivu, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo
Joseph Tsongo, Coordinator, Amani Academy, Goma, North-Kivu, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, for his project, “Amani Academy for Peace Literacy.” Born in the middle of war in 1994 in the province of North Kivu, Joseph challenged himself to inspire young people to rebuild, despite the traumatic ordeals they were facing on a daily basis. Since 2016, he has organized resilience and community building activities to promote a culture of active non-violence. Through the Amani Academy, which he initiated in 2018, he introduces children to the basics of reading. In 2022, Joseph was named a 2022 Mandela Washington Fellow, a program of the U.S. State Department. For his determination to foster literacy and peace in the context of violent conflict, Judith’s Reading Room proudly recognizes Joseph Tsongo as a Freedom Through Literacy Award Honorable Mention.
“We use literacy to teach and communicate the culture of peace and life skills to young people affected by conflict and war.” – Joseph Tsongo
Board Option Award – $200
Colin Bloom – “Creating a Library for Literacy“
New York City/Mpumalanga, South Africa
Colin Bloom, 16-year-old New York City high school student and founder of a literacy nonprofit for his project, “Creating a Library for Literacy at the Senianya Primary School in Mpumalanga, South Africa.” Colin is a standout on multiple levels: as a teenager, he established a nonprofit, Libraries for Literacy, has dedicated two libraries in impoverished rural South Africa, has assertively insinuated himself into partnerships with global entities, and has shown tenacity, drive, entrepreneurship, compassion and a desire to learn and improve from each experience. As Colin points out, “Learning to read without books is like learning to play soccer without a ball, impossible but relevant to many South African kids who are expected to become literate without access to books.” For his spirited determination to use his life to work towards the goal in which all children have access to a good education, Judith’s Reading Room awards Colin with a USD$200 Board Option Prize.
“Learning to read without books is like learning to play soccer without a ball.“
– Colin Bloom
Board Option Award – $400
Victor Owuor – “Pathway to Alternative Learning Education (PALE)”
Victor Owuor, after-school program coordinator, the Sunflower Trust, Nairobi, Kenya for his project, “Pathway to Alternative Learning Education (PALE).” As World Literacy Ambassador since 2022 representing Kenya, Victor understands what it means when one lacks resources to attend school: He was born and bred in the informal settlement of Kibera slum, Nairobi. Sunflower Trust works in partnership with community schools to identify girls, in the fifth grade, who are at risk of ending their education early and transitions them to the after-school, part-time PALE program. At PALE, literacy groups help the girls develop critical thinking, communication and reasoning skills. Sunflower is also committed to involving parents and caregivers through focus groups and one-on-one meetings. The girls are challenged to write their own books which has encouraged them to read a variety of books to borrow ideas for their own stories. “Literacy as leadership and a form of justice is at the core of our programming,” said Owuor. He added, “while there are many literate youths in the world, there are few who are truly freely literate — whose voices are heard, whose opinions and beliefs are listened to and honored, and who have the ability to fully express themselves and be who they want to be.” For his dedication to changing lives one at a time, Judith’s Reading Room awards Victor with a USD$400 Board Option Prize.
“Free literacy is not simply the ability to read and write fluently but the ability to freely express oneself.”
– Victor Owuor
Judith’s Award – $1,500
Amber Drinen – “R.E.A.D. in Beauty Bookmobile”
The $1,500 Judith’s Award winner is Amber Drinen for “R.E.A.D. in Beauty Bookmobile” project, an initiative of Chinle Planting Hope in Chinle, Arizona, a Native-controlled nonprofit that supervises the Bookmobile which serves 34,000 members of the Navajo Nation, where there is no public library.
There is great excitement about the Bookmobile, according to David Goldberg, MD, who notes in his letter of reference, “There is an ambitious, thoughtful plan to bring books and library programing to the communities surrounding Chinle. Lives are about to be enriched; memories will be formed; and sparks of wonder are in the offing.” For example, Bookmobile staff provide assistance with laptops, internet and STEM activities while maintaining the on-board library of 10,000 catalogued books for children K-12.
“Children must experience the joy of a good story and what it means to lose yourself in the pages.”
– Amber Drinen