Announcing – 2022 Freedom Through Literacy Award!

Seeking Champions of Literacy

Judith’s Reading Room is pleased to announce its 8th annual Freedom Through Literacy Awards. There is no cost to apply and it is open to champions of literacy from around the world. Apply now for the 2022 Freedom Through Literacy Award at Deadline for submissions is July 1. Winners will be announced end-July and will be honored at an exclusive online event Sunday, September 18.

Judith’s Reading Room, a non-profit literacy organization, founded in 2010 in the memory of Judith F. Krug, a librarian — through this signature event — recognizes the achievements of teachers, librarians, poets, writers, booksellers, educators and literacy not-for-profit organizations. Applicants are judged on five criteria including how their philosophy about literacy guides their work.

The organization’s $5,000 Freedom Through Literacy Award was inaugurated in 2015 to pay tribute to those on the front line of literacy. The 2022 Awards include $2,500 for the Grand Prize Winner and $1,500 for the Judith’s Award Winner. And, at the discretion of the Board of Directors, up to four applicants may share a Board Option Prize, totaling $1,000.


To date, the organization has awarded $43,500 in Freedom Through Literacy Award prize money to 40 individual winners in 12 countries: Australia, Bhutan, Cambodia, Cyprus, Greece, Honduras, Mexico, Pakistan, the Philippines, Rwanda, the U.S.A. and Zimbabwe. Winners hail from 7 different US states.

The organization’s mission is to enrich lives and societies by proactively encouraging freedom through literacy. That mission has been fulfilled by establishing 103 libraries in 22 countries with 131,470 books donated worth over $1.4 million.

Judith’s Reading Room Packs Book Vending Machine

On Giving Tuesday. Pennsylvania Non-Profit Packs Book Vending Machine at Mosaic Prep Academy in East Harlem, NY

On this Giving Tuesday, Judith’s Reading Room, a nonprofit literacy organization based in eastern Pennsylvania with offices in New York City, joined hands with its 2021 Freedom Through Literacy Award winner, Dr. Lisette Caesar, Principal, Mosaic Preparatory Academy in East Harlem to “stuff” her school’s first-of-its-kind Book Vending Machine with 50 children’s books.

Judith’s Reading Room donated the books thanks to generous patrons at the Wyomissing, PA Barnes & Noble.  That store chose Judith’s Reading Room for the 2nd year in a row as its “Holiday Book Drive Charity.”  Mosaic Prep Academy is just one of a a dozen recipient organizations that Judith’s Reading Room has selected to receive the donated books. Today’s Giving Tuesday gift of 50 hand-picked books is valued at $436.

The Book Vending Machine is the brainchild of Dr. Caesar in response to her students’ less than enthusiastic passion for reading following the shutdown of schools as a result of COVID-19.  To spark a renewed passion for reading, scholars earn coupons for being good Samaritans or for reading a certain number of books.  They exchange coupons for a token to unlock a book of their choice from the bright blue Book Vending Machine.  

To entice even the youngest scholars, Judith’s Reading Room selected “I Can Read!” books as well as Caldecott Medal winners such as Drummer Hoff, and all-time favorites including The Story of Ferdinand and The Runaway Bunny.  “The key to excite a child to read is simple.  “You need to give them books that they want to read, that they choose to read,” stated Cathy Leiber, President and Co-Founder, Judith’s Reading Room.

Judith’s Reading Room’s mission is to enrich lives and societies by proactively encouraging freedom through literacy.  That mission has been fulfilled by establishing 103 libraries in 22 countries with nearly 131,000 books donated worth over $1.4 million. Its annual Freedom Through Literacy Award offers cash prizes to champions of literacy around the world.  Visit to learn more about previous winners and how to apply for the 2022 Award beginning in early January 2022.


Jabulani Community Center-Judith’s Reading Room Library #103

Adult Community Literacy Program awarded a custom Judith’s Reading Room Library

November 21, 2021 — Judith’s Reading Room dedicated its 103rd library today at Jabulani Community Center in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe.  This custom library contains books designed for teenagers and adults who, for whatever reason, find themselves grown but not fully literate.

The difficulty was to find appropriate adult-level reading materials with locally relevant stories.  Books were out of print but soft copies were provided on the website of a South Africa publisher.  The library contains very simple entry-level reading books to more complex and detailed stories. Primary and secondary teachers facilitate the program in the evening, earning them additional income.

“Giving teenagers and adults in any country, in any community, the opportunity to come to a community center and learn to read without judgement helps empower parents and raise literate children,” said Cathy Leiber, President, Judith’s Reading Room.

This is the second library Judith’s Reading Room has dedicated in Zimbabwe with its nonprofit literacy partner, Children in the Wilderness.  “Watching someone work their way through a sentence that they weren’t able to do before is truly heart-warming,” states Sarah Adams,  CHE.




Holiday Book Drive ….Books Not Toys, For a Change

Books Not Toys, For a Change..Info & Updates
Barnes & Noble Patrons in Wyomissing Help Improve Lives

Judith’s Reading Room, a 501(c)3 based in eastern PA is proud to announce its selection — for the 2nd year in a row — as the Barnes & Noble Wyomissing PA 2021 Holiday Book Drive Charity.  Beginning November 1st, and running straight through the holiday season — patrons at the location can donate a book or two at checkout for a child in need and forever change that child’s life.

As an alternative to the expected toy shortage this holiday season, Judith’s Reading Room suggests that families consider buying books not toys — books for your family and for families who cannot afford to buy them.  Barnes & Noble makes this act of generosity easy.

“Since Judith’s Reading Room’s inception in 2010, Barnes & Noble has placed confidence in our ability to get donated books into the hands of less fortunate children here and around the world,” noted Cathy Leiber, President, Judith’s Reading Room.  She added, “It is impossible to state how emotional it is for families to receive new books.”

Barnes and Noble Holiday Book Drive for Judith’s Reading room UPDATES!

November 19th...Thank You…Thank You…Thank you…to all the holiday shoppers who have purchased books for Judith’s Reading Room. So far, five large boxes have been picked up and will be sent to many of our libraries and Freedom Through Literacy Award winners throughout the world. Thank you Barnes and Noble, Wyomissing, PA for choosing us as your holiday charity.

Judith’s Reading Room visits 2021 Honorable Mention Winner! Updated!

November in NYC with 2021 Honorable Mention Freedom Through Literacy Award winner, Dr. Lisette Caesar

Early November…

Judith’s Reading Room’s 2021 Honorable Mention Freedom Through Literacy Award winner, Dr. Lisette Caesar, Principal, Mosaic Preparatory Academy and Asst. Principal Jacqueline Wilson plus Scott and Cathy Leiber met in early November in NYC to discuss her innovative literacy initiatives at Mosaic Preparatory Academy in East Harlem. Photo US Above: Scott Leiber, Jacqueline Wilson, Dr. Lisette Caesar. Below: Dr. Lisette Caesar and Cathy Leiber.

Scott and Cathy Leiber of Judith’s Reading Room was honored to attended the ribbon cutting for a creative, cutting-edge innovation – a book vending machine at Mosaic Preparatory Academy in East Harlem, New York. One of our 2021 Honorable Mention Freedom Through Literacy Award winners, Lisette Caesar, was the brain child of this project.

One memorable comment from a student was “I thought I would never see a vending machine with books. I’ve only seen them with candy.”💕

Harrisburg, PA Schools Win Recognition for their “Diversity & Inclusion” Library


CONTACT: Cathy Leiber

Harrisburg, PA. Schools Win Recognition for their “Diversity & Inclusion” Library
 Books give power to open discussion about topics at any grade level.
October 14, 2021 — Diversity and inclusion in the classroom starts early in Harrisburg, PA schools, thanks to the leadership and initiative of an exemplary second grade teacher.  Derek Witmer, winner of a 2021 Judith’s Reading Room Freedom Through Literacy Award, developed and curated a “Diversity and Inclusion” library at Paxtonia Elementary School as a tool to share with fellow teachers.

Hailed by his principal, Julia Batdorf, as a “conscientious and exemplary teacher,” Witmer’s important project is now replicated in a second school with a donation of $500 from Judith’s Reading Room.  South Side Elementary School in Harrisburg, PA under the leadership of 2nd grade teacher Stacey Chyr, is the recipient of Judith’s Reading Room’s 102nd library. “The library is up and running,” said Chyr.  She added, “The teachers are really excited about having such a great collection of books.”  Twenty-six books will be available to just over 800 students in grades Kindergarten through Fifth grade.

Curated by Derek Witmer, the library includes books which touch on topics such as general diversity, acceptance, gender identity, familial make ups, disabilities, and SEL; as well as stories about a student who has a parent in prison, or families dealing with immigration or language barriers, and stories that tackle with the loss of a parent.  “The extensive range of books Derek curated sheds light on the complexity and reality of students in classrooms across America today,” said Cathy Leiber, President, Judith’s Reading Room.

“The more representation we are able to see in our children’s literature, the more accepting and inclusive a world we can build,” said Witmer.

Resources and discussion cards accompany the library for teachers to familiarize themselves with the topics and feel comfortable leading discussions with their students.

The mission of Judith’s Reading Room is to enrich lives and societies by proactively encouraging freedom through literacy.  To date, the organization has fulfilled that mission by establishing 102 libraries in 22 countries with over 128,000 books worth nearly $1.4 million.

Applications for the 2022 Freedom Through Literacy Award will be posted on the website at in January 2022.





Banned Books Weeks Visit to Titcomb’s Bookshop

In celebration of Banned Books Week, Scott and Cathy Liber, co-founders of Judith’s Reading Room, visited Titcomb’s Bookshop, Sandwich, MA. On the right, is Ellen Speers, manager of this outstanding independent bookstore founded in 1969 in MA by the Titcomb family.
Titcomb’s Bookshop had a large display of banned books in honor of the week.

2021 Freedom Through Literacy Awards Announced


CONTACT: Cathy Leiber

2021 Freedom Through Literacy Awards Announced

Winning Applications Highlighted Exceptional Creativity and Impact


July 22, 2021 — Ms. Angela Chalkiopoulou, Limassol, Cyprus, declared Grand Prize Winner of the 2021 Freedom Through Literacy Award.   Chalkiopoulou, an educator, dominated the field of applicants with her literacy project, “Alice in Writer’s Land,” winning her the top prize of $2,500.  A colleague described Angela as “a future literacy marvel and an excellent example of how creative teachers can turn inspiration into action, changing the way children perceive themselves towards literacy.” Alice in Writer’s Land collaborates with artists, educators, writers and illustrators—introducing the children of Cyprus to the writer’s way of thinking. “Literature is the absolute source of inspiration, the joy of human intellect, when combined with ingenious art and multimedia toolkits, it can transform a classroom into a small collaborating and learning society, offering the prospect of a hopeful future for all of us,” said Chalkiopoulou.


Ms. Joicki Floyd, Newark, New Jersey wins the 2021 Freedom Through Literacy “Judith’s Award.”    Floyd, a high school teacher whose literacy initiative “Y.O.U.T.H.” (You Open Up Then Heal) seeks to transform the lives of inner city children and their families through reading is awarded $1,500.  Joicki’s creative program includes the use of Socratic Seminars and discussion panels with Newark Mayor Ras Baraka.  She articulated the essential idea that in books, youth who lack hope and positive influences, can find positive motivation, examples and influences.  “If you build libraries in the hearts of the youth, you will empower them with points of reference that may change the trajectory of their lives,” stated Floyd.  The Judith’s Award is named in the memory of Judith F. Krug, a librarian who dedicated her career at the American Library Association to protecting the freedom of speech.


At the discretion of Judith’s Reading Room’s Board Members, each year, $1,000, is set aside for Board Option Awards to recognize high-scoring applicants.  The winners of the 2021 Board Option Award are:


Ms. Sue Goatley, nonprofit leader, Children in the Wilderness, “Jabulani Community Literacy Programme,” in the Zambezi Region, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe.  Goatley, a 2019 Board Option Award winner and recipient of Judith’s Reading Room’s 100th library dedicated July 2021 at Ziga Primary School, has once again captured the judges’ attention with her acute description — and solution — of adult illiteracy.  She writes, “Seeing a young child struggle learning to read can often seem like an uphill battle.  However, a truly heart-breaking scene is watching a young teen, new into high school, staring blankly at a page.”  Goatley’s community literacy program at Jululani Primary School is an evening program available to teenagers and adults with any level of literacy.  It also offers an opportunity for teachers to earn additional income.  For her work to de-stigmatize adult illiteracy in isolated and rural Matabeleland North, Zimbabwe, Goatley wins a 2021 Board Option Award in the amount of $400.


Ms. Lisa Gerard, founder, Little Read Wagon, in Norman, Oklahoma.  In 2020, Gerard had a kernel of an idea that grew into an ambitious grassroots outreach effort to supply new and donated books to children living in “book desert communities” in Norman and surrounding areas.  Lisa built a mini “library” at a local laundromat then added a lending library and a volunteer program to collect and distribute culturally relevant books at community events.  In just one year, Gerard has distributed more than 10,000 books to children and adults.  Ms. Breea Clark, Mayor, City of Norman endorsed Gerard adding, “This outreach program engages and inspires a great love for reading with a passionate ambition in bridging the literacy gap in the Oklahoma City Metro area.” For her joyous, passionate and creative approach to getting books into the hands of her fellow citizens, Gerard wins a 2021 Board Option Award in the amount of $300.


Mr. Derek Witmer, 2nd Grade Teacher, “Diversity and Inclusion Library,” in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.  Described by his Principal as “a conscientious and exemplary teacher, a true difference maker and a positive force in modern education,” Witmer initiated a collection of literature — a curated library — that touches on important topics such as general diversity, acceptance, gender identity, familial make ups, and SEL.    This 2nd grade teacher didn’t stop there.   Also included are stories where a student has a parent in prison, families dealing with immigration, language barriers and stories dealing with the loss of a parent.  He enhanced the library by creating resources and discussion cards for teachers.  It is no wonder that other schools in his district have reached out to him for help in adopting his Diversity and Inclusion Library.  Derek believes that “Literature has the power to change the world, and I’m glad to be able to have an impact on the upcoming generations.”  In recognition of his compassion toward students who experience and struggle through things that most of us can never truly understand, Witmer wins a 2021 Board Option Award in the amount of $300.


To encourage and propel certain 2021 applicants to continue their efforts and to re-apply for the 2022 Freedom Through Literacy Award, the judges declared the following Honorable Mentions (no cash award):


Ms. Lisette Caesar, Educator, “Mirroring our Kids,” in East Harlem, New York.  Caesar’s project is to fill her classroom libraries with books that have protagonists that look like the children she educates.  She emphasizes, “Kids asking us to provide more books about their culture or with characters that look like them —  is a first for us.” In recognition of Caesar’s belief “that it is important that impressionable black and brown kids see themselves in positive ways in the books they read,” Judith’s Reading Room, through the Honorable Mention designation, wishes to give Caesar global recognition and encouragement.


Ms. Simon Ke, Executive Director, Anjali House, “Mobile Library Project,” in Siem Reap, Cambodia.  Anjali House’s Mobile Library used tuk-tuks (a common mode of transportation in Cambodia) to reach over 850 students in remote villages.  COVID restrictions have prevented its expansion. In recognition of their community outreach, Judith’s Reading Room seeks to bring global attention to the literacy work currently “stopped in its tracks” in this well-known tourist destination near Angkor Wat, where Judith’s Reading Room dedicated a library in May 2013.


Judith’s Reading Room’s mission is to enrich lives and societies by proactively encouraging Freedom Through Literacy.  To date, the organization has fulfilled that mission by establishing 101 libraries (and counting!) in 22 countries with 130,500 books worth over $1.4 million.


The Freedom Through Literacy Award was initiated in 2015 as the organization’s signature event.  Including the 2021 winners, the organization will have disbursed $43,500 in cash awards to 40 unique champions of literacy.  Freedom Through Literacy Award winners — 2015-2021 — hail from the United States, the Philippines, Bhutan, Pakistan, Rwanda, Cambodia, Mexico, Australia, Zimbabwe, Greece and Cyprus.






Ziga Primary School (Finally) Opens – Judith’s Reading Room 100th library!

Very much delayed but with much gratitude and excitement, we have finally been able to call Ziga Primary School’s library the 100th Judith’s Reading Room library!  Due to schools been closed in Zimbabwe as a result of Covid-19 from March 2020 – March 2021, our much anticipated unveiling of Judith’s Reading Room’s 100th library at Ziga had to wait until we were able to visit schools again.

Thanks to the award that Ziga Primary won last year through Judith’s Reading Room, we were able to purchase 113 early reading books to add to the school library. The books were carefully chosen to suit the needs of the school and the students. There are just over 150 students enrolled at Ziga, from ages 5 – 14. Due to the low literacy levels in southern African schools, the Oxford University Press South Africa New Way early reading books provide an ideal platform from which to help students learn to read and gain comprehension skills. They have various levels that students can work through as they improve, and all the books are locally relevant stories full of pictures and bright colours. These were combined with other early reading books that have come highly recommended for southern Africa, creating a wonderful new addition of resources for the school library.

The books made a long journey themselves, all the way from Durban in South Africa, up to Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. From Victoria Falls we then took them 230 kilometers to Ziga, which is located south of Hwange National Park on the western boundary of Zimbabwe.

Judith’s Reading Room partnered with the African non-profit organization, Children in the Wilderness, winner of its 2019 Freedom Through Literacy Award Board Option Prize.   Thus began our relationship with Children in the Wilderness.  In 2020, Judith’s Reading Room and Children in the Wilderness agreed to dedicate a Judith’s Reading Room library, knowing that it would be the organization’s 100th library in its 22nd country.  Ziga Primary School, described as an outstanding pillar in their community — as its library also doubles as an adult literacy center — was chosen.  The original plan was to dedicate the library in August 2020, but the pandemic got in the way.  Schools in Zimbabwe closed in March 2020; children just returned to school for the first-time in a year.

A donation of US$500 to Children in the Wilderness resulted in the purchase of 113 level-specific books. Due to low literacy levels in southern African schools, books to help students learn to read and gain comprehension skills were of paramount importance.  “The distribution of these books came as such a welcome surprise to the teachers and students at Ziga,” said Sarah Adams, Children in the Wilderness’s Community Sustainability & Evaluation Trainer.  Sue Goatley, the organization’s Program Manager added, “We would like to say a huge thank you to Judith’s Reading Room for this wonderful gift that will continue to inspire children at Ziga for years to come.”

The mission of Judith’s Reading Room is to enrich lives and societies by proactively encouraging freedom through literacy.  To date, the organization has fulfilled that mission by establishing 101 libraries in 22 countries with more than 130,000 books donated worth US$1.4 million.

Applications for the 2021 Freedom Through Literacy Award, the organization’s signature annual event, is posted on its website at The deadline for applications is fast approaching:  July 1, 2021.  Winners will be announced by the end of July.




Three more Camel Libraries in Pakistan!

Three more camel libraries and more to come… read onward…

Well, Judith’s Reading Room got it right when in voting Basarat as our 1st Freedom Through Literacy Award! She continues to thrill and we hope this message touches your heart as it did ours.  Enjoy the new photos as well!

Dear Cathy,

Thank you to Judith’s Reading Room for starting something so beautiful for Pakistan’s children.

Roshan, and the 1st camel library in Pakistan has warmed the hearts and imagination of people all over the world and been covered by international media with such interest that there has been an opening of so many doors for children in remote areas of Pakistan.

Three more camel libraries are running in Gwadar, Balochistan and Tharparkar, Sindh. We have funds to set up two more, and will start work on them after the Eid holidays.

Roshan now has three more friends,
Aman ( Peace), Raunaq ( Jovial) Chiragh ( Light); Khushi ( Happiness) and Umeed ( Hope) are on their way.

And all this in a short time period; Roshan was launched in October 2020.

My warmest and very best to all at Judith’s Reading Room.


Additional information …..

GRAND PRIZE – 2015 Freedom Through Literacy Award

BOARD OPTION PRIZES – 2020 Freedom Through Literacy

Please submit your application for 2021’s Freedom Through Literacy Award – Deadline July 1st!

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