CONTACT: Cathy Leiber
Judith’s Reading Room Announces the “Founders’ Award”
In honor of literacy heroes everywhere who nourish souls and fulfill dreams
September 18, 2022 — Judith’s Reading Room announced today its newest Award — the Founders’ Award, a cash prize at the discretion of its founders, Scott & Cathy Leiber, to honor literacy heroes who have had to overcome immense obstacles in order to enrich lives through literacy.
Judith’s Reading Room names two winners of the inaugural 2022 Founders’ Award: Ms. Basarat Kazim, Lehore, Pakistan and Ms. Simon Ke, Siem Reap, Cambodia. Each is awarded a cash prize of $1,000.
Ms. Basarat Kazim, Alif Laila Book Bus Society, Lehore, Pakistan
(L) Ms. Basarat Kazim, President, Alif Laila Book Bus Society, Lehore, Pakistan. (R) Judith’s Reading Room’s 101st library: The Camel Library shown here with Murad, camel driver and Roshan, camel with children in Mand, Pakistan.
Our friendship with Basarat dates back to 2015 when she was awarded the first Freedom Through Literacy Award Grand Prize. Subsequently, in 2020, Judith’s Reading Room dedicated with Kazim its 101st library — our first-ever mobile library to utilize a camel to deliver books to children. “Our” camel driver, Murad, and his camel named Roshan carried 500 children’s books to the nearly impossible to reach community of Balochistan in southwest Pakistan.
We thought that was terrible. Today, a third of Pakistan is underwater amid its worst floods in history.
Recently, Basarat wrote:
“My friend, the floods are horrendous and are continuing to wipe away buildings, homes, people. Such a sad and depressing time. Alif Laila is reaching out to our friends and partners in the affected areas and sending in supplies for children; books, dry food, play material, and medicines head the list. Schools are closed in Balochistan right now. Roshan (camel) and Murad (camel driver) remain safe. Thank you once again my dear sister/ friend for caring and being there for Alif Laila and the children of Pakistan always.”
In honor of Basarat’s commitment to play her part in overcoming the devastating impact of the deadly flooding, she receives a Founders’ Award in the amount of $1,000.
Ms. Simon Ke, Siem Reap, Cambodia
(L) Ms. Simon Ke, Executive Director, Anjali House, Siem Reap, Cambodia. (R) Teacher with children practicing reading aloud.
In 2013, Judith’s Reading Room established a library containing 87 children’s books at Anjali House in Siem Reap, near Angkor Wat. Anjali House serves destitute children.
Fast forward to 2021, Anjali House applied for the organization’s Freedom Through Literacy Award, but as their project described something not yet realized, it did not qualify for a cash prize. However, Judith’s Reading Room awarded Anjali House a 2021 “Honorable Mention” designation intended to encourage the organization and to pursue its dream.
Particularly hard-hit by the exponential growth in COVID-19 cases, Cambodia’s poor have suffered disproportionately. Throughout, Simon Ke and her colleagues never abandoned hope for their Mobile Library project.
Recently, Simon Ke reported:
“In 2021 we won Honorable Mention for our Mobile Library and Distance Learning program during COVID. Due to government restrictions, we were unable to run the activity for 2021. Finally in 2022, restrictions began to lift. Luckily, in July we received funding to design our own mobile library cart and restart this project. While the cart is still being constructed, we have been able to rent a tuk-tuk and take our library materials to the community twice so far. We run the mobile library on Sundays and connect with the commune chief, who helps us select the area and gather the children. Right now, our young adult students are helping conduct the activities. Children have time to explore books on their own, do a group reading activity, and end with a fun activity or game.
We plan to go into the community every Sunday for the rest of the year, and hopefully next! Thank you supporting our library, which has allowed this to be possible.”
In honor of Anjali House’s determination and perseverance in the face of a global pandemic, Simon Ke receives a 2022 Founders’ Award in the amount of $1,000.
Judith’s Reading Room
Judith’s Reading Room, a nonprofit literacy organization, was established in 2010 in the memory of Judith F. Krug, by her first cousins, Scott and Cathy Leiber. Judy served as Director, Office for Intellectual Freedom at the American Library Association where for over 40 years she was a critic of censorship and a proponent of the freedom of speech.
In 2022, Judith’s Reading Room’s founders initiated the Founders’ Award in recognition of the indisputable civic significance of exceptional individuals who continue to foster a love of reading despite all odds.
Judith’s Reading Room’s mission is to enrich lives and societies by proactively encouraging Freedom Through Literacy. The organization has, to date, dedicated 103 curated libraries in 22 countries with nearly 132,000 books worth over $1.4 million. It’s signature Freedom Through Literacy Award was established in 2015 and to date has honored 47 champions of literacy from 14 countries with cash prizes totaling $48,500. “The Founders’ Award is one more way to honor the amazing work of literacy champions around the world to build community and collaboration,” said Scott Leiber, co-founder.