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Books Filling a Gap in an Educational Crisis!

logoTwo Philadelphia-based Boys & Girls clubs are the recipients of 750 new books from Judith’s Reading Room, a nonprofit literacy organization in Bethlehem, Pa.

Cathy Leiber, who cofounded Judith’s Reading Room with her husband Scott, delivered the two mobile library carts to the Wissahickon Boys & Girls Club at 328 W. Coulter St., Philadelphia on Monday, Dec. 23 in advance of a 2 p.m. dedication. The Germantown Boys & Girls Club will also receive a cart.

The books will be used in the club’s Literacy Program, says Libby Lescalleet, executive program officer.  “The more access to books we provide for our kids, the more opportunities they have to dream big,” she says, noting the two facilities serve about 400 youth.

Lescalleet says a focus of the Boys & Girls Club is to augment public education by providing strong literacy and STEM (Science Technology and Math) programs for the population it serves.

“There’s such an education crisis in our schools we need to fill some of those gaps for our kids,” she says.  In addition to the two libraries, which are valued at more than $7,350, Judith’s Reading Room is providing 50 new children’s books for the elementary students who attend the Boys & Girls Club. Leiber will hand them out after the dedication to the students who are present.

The libraries are being donated in honor of Maya Polack, a teacher who graduated from St. Joseph’s University.

Sunday’s Morning Call Feature

Today’s Sunday Morning Call feature! Judith’s Reading Room spreads the ABC’s of literacy! A great article!

mc-judithsrr001-jpg-20131130Judith’s Reading Room has come a long way since its origins in Scott and Cathy Leiber’s Williams Township home.

Not very long geographically, mind you. It is now headquartered in a modest back office on East Third Street in south Bethlehem.

But the books that are its reason for being — the whole spectrum of literature from “Amelia Bedelia” to “Zombie Apocalypse” — have made their way from that nondescript spot to Mazer-Sharif in Afghanistan and Korce in Albania and Padang in Indonesia and a host of other places hardly anyone could pinpoint on a map.

They have also landed closer to home, at Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Hospital, St. Luke’s KidsCare and many other institutional settings: children’s homes, veterans hospitals, senior centers.

Judith’s Reading Room Expands to China

On October 31, Judith’s Reading Room announced the opening of its first library in mainland China to serve schools in a remote and impoverished region of Yunnan Province. The organization was contacted by Frances Deram, an American teacher affiliated with the non-profit Teach for China. Her compelling plea to send children’s books in English to help close the gap of education inequality in China resonated with the organization, whose mission is to enrich lives by providing books to those who do not have access to them.

Ms. Deram said, “the majority of our students do not have money to buy new clothes, much less books outside of the required curriculum. For the first time, students will be able to look beyond their English textbook and see the world from another country’s perspective.” Teach for China is a non-profit organization that recruits and trains the most talented and dedicated young leaders from China and the USA to place Fellows in low-income schools as full-time educators for two years.

Judith’s Reading Room has opened 58 libraries in three years containing 62,687 books worth nearly $640,000. In addition to China, the organization has opened libraries in 10 countries outside the United States –Afghanistan, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Albania, Costa Rica, Cambodia, Japan and Namibia.

The organization depends heavily on gently-read book donations from members of the local community. Recently four teenagers conducted book drives which resulted in the collection of nearly 4,000 books. Jared Fantasia, a junior at Northampton Area High School, whose book drive brought in 2,871 books, requested that all of his children’s books be shipped to schools in China.

Books provided by Judith’s Reading Room to Teach for China, will be used for two main purposes: free reading for outside the classroom and supplemental texts to be used in class, according to Ms. Deram. She added, “my goal is to have a lasting English impact at our school.”

Celebrating Banned Books Through Dance

Sept. 26, 2013 “The Emotive Powers of Literature: Celebrating Banned Books Through Dance. A Banned Book Week event, an event presented by Judith’s Reading Room at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA The event, created in collaboration with Muhlenberg’s Six Meters improvisational dance ensemble, focused on Persepolis and 40 other books that have been banned and challenged. Persepolis – Marjane Satrapi’s award-winning graphic novel that was removed from Chicago Public School classes earlier this year.

Bryn Mawr Book Donation!

Staff and administrators at Bryn Mawr Rehab Hospital on Malvern PA collected and donated 787 children’s books. The books will go to families with children under the age of 5 where there are no books in the home and to US troops serving at Camp Phoenix in Kabul where they give books to village elders as “peace offerings”.

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Judith’s Reading Room Opens Libraries in Japan & Namibia

Judith’s Reading Room opens two new libraries this week in Japan and Namibia.

Japan Library - ParishMarine Moms contacted Judith’s Reading Room to request books for their sons stationed in Japan.  Lcpl Gray Parish announced the opening of a Judith’s Reading Room lending library for his fellow Marines at a base in Japan. He carved space out of his quarters to house the boxes of books volunteer “Boxers” have sent his way. Since September 2010, Judith’s Reading Room has shipped 1,600 books to Marines in Iran, Afghanistan, the Republic of Georgia, Japan Guam and the Philippines.

2013-06-17-Namibia-Schlip-Primary-SchoolA newspaper article about Judith’s Reading Room’s work around the world inspired members of a New Jersey church to contact the organization to help one of their members, a Peace Corps volunteer at Schlip Primary School in Rehoboth, Namibia, stock its deteriorating library.

In Rehoboth, south-central Namibia, a library of children’s elementary books arrived thanks to a collaborative effort between Judith’s Reading Room and members of the Flemington Baptist Church. Until now, the school did not have the resources to provide English books before fifth grade. Schlip serves 150 children from kindergarten to grade 7. English is Namibia’s official language but the people of Rehoboth speak either Africaans or Khoekhoegowab, a “clicking” language. Judith’s Reading Room’s donation of 269 books will offer children the chance to learn English starting in kindergarten.

Sunday school children at Flemington Baptist Church in New Jersey undertook a book drive and reached out to Judith’s Reading Room to supplement their collection. They also raised funds to help offset the cost of shipping books.

USS George W.H. Bush chaplain and library staff with the brand new drone

Judith’s Reading Room was just sent this photo of the chaplain and library staff with the brand new drone on board the USS GEORGE W.H. BUSH. USS-George-W.-Bush Drone

These are the soldiers who handle the books that we ship to the aircraft carrier each month.


If you were watching the news this week, you would have seen live footage of the USS GEORGE H.W. BUSH (CVN 77) – the aircraft carrier where Judith’s Reading Room has TWO libraries on board! The carrier is the first to have a spectacular unmanned drone aircraft able to fly at night and in extremely dangerous circumstances, without, obviously, risking the lives of pilots.

Author Jerry Spinelli Chats with Judith’s Reading Room and Teens from Children’s Home of Easton

On May 5, 2013, members of the Judith’s Reading Room Board of Directors hosted teens from the Children’s Home of Easton on a trip to Malvern, Pa. to meet Newberry-winning author Jerry Spinelli. The group spoke to the author at the People’s Light and Theater before attending the play adaption of Spinelli’s novel Stargirl.

jspinelli2Spinelli, who won a Newberry Award in 1991 for Maniac Magee and a Newberry Honor in 1998 for Wringer, spoke with the group for an hour and half. Topics ranged from his first rejected novels to his zeal for pet rats. The teens from Children’s Home Of Easton, all of whom are members of the Judith’s Reading Room weekly book club, had just finished reading his novel Stargirl. The teens asked questions and had their books signed.

When asked why he writes for children and young adults, Spinelli pointed out that writes books about children but not specifically for children. “I let the kids rise up to the story,” Spinelli emphasized. He’s also an advocate for losing with grace. In our times, he explained, we feel a need for everyone to win all the time, to the point that when our children and young adults meet their inevitable first failure they feel lost.

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On the subject of writing, he spoke about how he had sent his first novel to forty publishers, all of whom had rejected it. All four of his first novels were rejected. His fifth book, Space Station Seventh Grade, was published in 1982. His overarching message: “Never give up.”

Judith’s Reading Room appreciates Jerry Spinelli for taking the time to meet and  speak with the teens at Children’s Home of Easton and members of the Judith’s Reading Room.  For more information on Jerry Spinelli, Star Girl and his other books including the ones below, please visit his website www.jerryspinelli.com.

Stargirl by Jerry SpinelliSpace Station Seventh Grade by Jerry SpinelliWringer by Jerry SpinelliManiac Magee by Jerry SpinelliHokey Pokey by Jerry Spinelli

Libraries dedicated in Cambodia for “Scavenger Children”

On Sunday, April 14, Robert Lucas returned to his ancestral home in Cambodia with two boxes full of children’s books, the latest donations from Judith’s Reading Room.

On Saturday, May 4, Judith’s Reading Room dedicated two libraries in Cambodia. The first library of 76 children’s books in English was dedicated in collaboration with A New Day Cambodia, a nonprofit in Phnom Penh that provides food, shelter and education to more than 100 scavenger children either abandoned or forced to pick trash to help support their families. At A New Day Cambodia, children are taught English to increase their opportunities for securing a job, particularly in the tourist industry.

The second library was inaugurated at Anjali House, located near Angkor Wat, home to the famous Buddhist pagoda in Siem Reap. Anjali House serves 110 children between the ages of 4-18, who come from families so poor they are forced to beg on the streets. Anjali House will receive a custom collection of 87 books ranging in topics from photography to football to science.

The books, 163 in all and written in English, include titles such as Green Eggs and Ham, If You Give a Pig a Pancake and A-Z Picture Dictionary, were given to these two organizations that rescue children from the streets and garbage dumps of one of the poorest countries in the world.

Cathy Leiber, cofounder of Judith’s Reading Room met Lucas during a trip to Los Angeles last year where he was working at The World is Just a Book Away. She was looking to expand the organization’s presence in Asia and Lucas offered to personally deliver the books this month when he moves home to care for his grandfather.

“Growing and expanding international collaborations based upon common goals to foster an appreciation of books, and the pleasure of reading, has the potential to create a positive impression of Americans in Cambodia and promote world peace ,” says Leiber.