GRAND PRIZE – 2015 Freedom Through Literacy Award

Ms. Basarat Kazim, “Alif Laila Book Bus Society’s Mobile Bus Library”
Lahore, Pakistan


Basarat believes that by providing access to quality literature, in a country that spends less than 2% on education, will inspire life-long learners and, most importantly, develop positive attitudes so critical for a tolerant society. Convinced that books are change agents and that libraries for children are places of independent research, critical thinking and imagination power houses, Basarat sets a determined and noteworthy commitment to literacy in Pakistan.

Ms. Basart Kazim, "Alif Laila Book Bus Society's Mobile Bus Library"

The Alif Laila Book Bus Society, the non-profit organization led by Basarat, strives to “color Pakistan with quality books and happy reading spaces in communities, schools and rural areas” in order to inspire children to become effective communicators and citizens — this in a country where the majority of children cannot read at grade level.

The metamorphosis of a dilapidated double decker bus into a wonderland of books that travels around Lahore happened more than three decades go. Under Basarat’s direction, guest speakers, story tellers, puppet shows, and big buddy/little buddy shared reading programs nurture an early love of reading and on a higher level, offer teacher training, resource and material development and literacy programs management all in a warm, welcoming environment.

Alif Laia Book Bus SocietyBasarat is responsible for growing Alif Laila Book Bus Society from a mobile library to an entire nationwide educational complex. To date, she has established 100 primary school libraries, five community libraries, hobby clubs, and, of course, its colorfully bright book mobile bus.

We warmly recognize Basarat Kazim as the 2015 Top Prize winner of the Freedom Through Literacy Award for her role in developing sustainable initiatives to combat illiteracy in Pakistan.  For more information visit
Alif Laila Society.


UPDATE – see new photos added August 4, 2018!

RUNNERS UP – 2015 Freedom Through Literacy Award

Ms. Janet Brown, “TEACH Rwanda”
Easton, PA

Ms. Janet Brown, "TEACH Rwanda"

Under Janet’s leadership, TEACH Rwanda has been educating Rwandan teachers — who had never seen a child’s book — and equipping school libraries with culturally relevant and engaging literature since 2012. Jan’s focus is on using the power of books to reveal the wonders of the surrounding and far away world to the 3-6 year olds TEACH Rwanda supports. Thanks to the dedicated TEACH Rwanda volunteers, who carry books and puzzles in their suitcases, hundreds of children in TEACH Rwanda schools have the chance to become prolific readers, writers, and artists.

Janet spent her life working in the field of pre-school education emphasizing reading readiness and exposing children, teachers and parents to the best in children’s literature. Several years ago, she flew to Africa to set up pre-schools and teacher training programs in Rwanda, a country ravished in the 1994 genocide that killed hundreds of thousands.

We recognize Janet Brown as Runner-Up in the 2015 Freedom Through Literacy Award for equipping teachers and librarians with the skills to upgrade the quality of education in Rwanda to become self-sufficient and for bringing the best quality of culturally sensitive children’s literature to the people of Rwanda. For more information visit TEACH Rwanda.

Ms. Thinley Choden, “READ Bhutan”
Thimphu, Bhutan

Ms. Thinley Choden, "READ Bhutan"

Thinley Choden believes that literacy is the foundation for gainful engagement with the world, a stepping stone to pursue our dreams. Bhutan is traditionally an oral society with a 54% literacy rate. Thinley leads READ Bhutan, the only organization building a network of self-sustaining community public libraries — where there was previously no public library system — and using them as a platform for education, community and enterprise development.

Thanks to Thinley’s pioneering work, today over 35,000 people have access to books where there were none. She is considered to have done more than any other person in Bhutan to promote a love of reading and to create a culture of literacy.

We recognize Thinley Choden as Runner Up in the 2015 Freedom Through Literacy Award for her relentless pursuit in helping rural communities along the treacherous roads of Bhutan achieve literacy, inspire the next generation of great thinkers and leaders within Bhutan and for helping empower women.

Ms. Melissa Clouser, “A Library for Magarao Central School, Philippines”
Harrisburg, PA

Melissa Clouser "A Library for Magarao Central School, Philippines"

A U.S. Peace Corps volunteer, Melissa made it her mission to provide books to the 1,400 primary school students in Magarao, where over 98% had no children’s books in the home and only 2 out of 40 teachers had non-text reading materials in their classrooms. Now, all 1,400 children and their teachers have access to over 4,000 thanks to Melissa.

Though many Peace Corps volunteers create libraries for their schools, Melissa Clouser made her project one-of-a-kind by including exemplary extracurricular and summer remedial reading programs, incorporating a variety of media to improve her students’ reading capabilities, creating a school-wide campaign to promote a culture of reading and designing a computer based inventory system.

Melissa partnered with the local university librarians to help sustain the library. She also trained 40 teachers in best practices to utilize the reading materials in their everyday lessons and inspire literacy in their students once she left her position. Her work was recognized by the local Department of Education who declared her library and literacy program would serve as the model for all schools in the region.

Melissa Clouser, “global citizen,” is recognized as a Runner-Up in the 2015 Freedom Through Literacy Award for her vision and innovation in literacy which inspired a community.

Ms. Janice Komisor, “Family Literacy Program” with ProJeCt of Easton”
Easton, PA

Ms. Jance Komisor, "Family Literacy Program" with ProJeCt of Easton

Janice Komisor has devoted her professional life to helping “disempowered” learners move from the margins of society to the mainstream. At ProJeCt of Easton, which serves 5,000 individuals a year, Janice established the Lehigh Valley’s first program to address the language and literacy development of at-risk children and their parents.

Many literacy programs focus either on young children or adults; Janice and the “Family Literacy Program” at ProJeCt of Easton works with whole families to break the intergenerational cycle of low literacy. By advancing parents’ literacy skills through evidence-based methods, “Family Literacy Program” allows parents to be the first and most important agent and teacher for their children.

We recognize Janice Komisor as a Runner-Up in the 2015 Freedom Through Literacy Award for her leadership in literacy education and her devotion to helping “disempowered” learners move from the margins of society to the mainstream.

Mr. Quintin Jose Pastrana, “Library Renewal Partnership”
Makati, Philippines

Mr. Quintin Jose Pastrana, Library Renewal Partnership"

Quintin’s view of literacy, framed while a student at Georgetown, Cambridge and Oxford, is that it is a fundamental tool for citizen empowerment, which in turn, is the cornerstone for democracy and sustainable development.

The goal of “Library Renewal Partnership,” founded in 2010, is to empower over 2 million citizens in the Philippines by helping build at least 200 community education centers by 2020. So far, Quintin has established 75 libraries in underserved communities across the Philippines, where he believes that public libraries are positioned to serve as strategic hubs for citizen empowerment at the community level.

What makes his initiative unique is his model, derived from research, that enables any citizen to initiate, develop and sustain pubic libraries in his or her community. In one of the villages impacted by their libraries, the program reports that literacy rates have improved from 10% to 53% and dropout rates have reduced from 70% to 20%. His libraries can be found in farms, hospitals, and prisons to read more marginalized sectors of society.

Quintin Jose Pastrana is recognized as a Runner Up in the 2015 Freedom Through Literacy Award for developing a coalition of literacy partners to drive the leading and fastest growing literacy program in the Philippines.

HONORABLE MENTIONS – 2015 Freedom Through Literacy Award

Ms. Dawn Bush, “Birth 2 Five”

Allentown, PA

Ms. Dawn Bush
In her capacity as Coordinator of the Women, Infants and Children’s (WIC) program at Casa Guadalupe in Allentown, Dawn is a change-agent in the community, explaining to parents why it is important to read aloud to children under the age of five. Dawn distributes more than 500 baby books each month to new families because she is passionate about helping WIC’s clients — 100% of whom have income levels below the federal poverty line — break the cycle of poverty through early literacy.

Mr. Arif Darmawan, “The World is Just a Book Away”
Sidoarjo, Indonesia

Mr. Arif Darmawan, "The World is Just a Book Away"

Arif is credited with helping promote literacy and education by developing 55 libraries with more than 42,000 books and programs that plant the seeds of leadership, environmental consciousness and community connection in East Java, Indonesia through the organization The World is Just a Book Away. These libraries impact 28,000 Indonesian schoolchildren. He is guided by the concept that you must empower children to change their own lives and communities through books and that education breaks the cycle of poverty, gives hope for a better future and promotes peace around the world.

Ms. Janet McIlhenny, “Lehigh Valley Head Trauma Support Book Group”
Allentown, PA

Ms. Janet McIlhenny, "Lehigh Valley Head Tramua Support Book Group", Allenown PA

A brain trauma patient herself, Janet had to relearn how to walk, dress herself and read again. She was told that she may never read more than one word at a time, but she wasn’t ready to give up. Teaching herself to read became her main focus and books became her best friend. In 2013, Janet started the Lehigh Valley Head Trauma Book Group. Members say that attending the monthly meetings has changed their outlook on life — there is more interaction, more eye contact, more talking and most importantly, people are smiling. She says the family members are seeing a spark of the “old” husband/wife/friend and that this is more exciting than her years of teaching public school or college. Through these books, she is watching lives change.

 Tiffany Mosqueda, “Harkins House Group Reading”
Hillsboro, OR

Ms. Tiffnay Mosqueda, "Harkins House Group Reading", Hillsboro, OR - 2015 Judiths Reading Room Honorable Mention
Tiffany is credited with revitalizing Harkins House school program, taking it from a standard credit recovery program to a fully integrated classroom by establishing a library and book club for adjudicated at-risk youth at Harkins House, a juvenile residential shelter in Oregon. She made reading fun for these youth, who commonly see school in a negative light and a place filled with people who have given up on them. Tiffany created the book club to give these young people an opportunity to discuss books of their choosing and issues reflecting aspects of their lives. These discussions allowed them to consider other ways they might have handled a difficult situation. Tiffany firmly believes that books change lives.

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