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Judith’s Reading Room Seeks Applicants for its 2019 Freedom Through Literacy Award
January 21, 2019 — Lehigh Valley, Pa. Judith’s Reading Room, a 501 (c) 3 literacy organization founded in 2010, announced today that applications for its 2019 Freedom Through Literacy Award can be found online at www.JudithsReadingRoom.org/APPLY. The prestigious award, that honors multiple winners, carries a total cash prize of $4,500. Deadline for submission of applications is July 1, 2019.
The annual Freedom Through Literacy Award — the signature element of Judith’s Reading Room — is open to individual champions of literacy including teachers, librarians, authors, researchers, educators and literacy nonprofits — anyone who has done exemplary work to instill in others a love of reading.
In addition to the $3,000 Grand Prize, the Judith’s Award worth $500, is limited to teachers, librarians and/or authors, who are also eligible to win the Grand Prize. The Board Option Award, totaling $1,000, was created to acknowledge the passion of our board members who are constantly on the lookout for individuals doing something exciting in the world of literacy.
Since its inception in 2010, Judith’s Reading Room has dedicated 96 libraries in 19 countries and counting, with 128,000 books donated valued at nearly $1.4 million dollars. Since 2015, The Freedom Through Literacy Award has disbursed $29,000 and has honored 25 individual champions of literacy in the United States, the Philippines, Bhutan, Pakistan, Rwanda, Cambodia and Mexico.
Matthew Weimann and Julia Dweck “Release Your Fireflies” — Macungie, Pa
Matthew Weinmann and Julia Dweck (shown here with Ibiyinka Alao)
“Release Your Fireflies” is best described as a storytelling-movement. Matthew Weimann and Julia Dweck, two ‘stellar’ teachers according to their principal, inspired their students in grades 3-5 to interpret Ibi’s true story. The children wrote an award winning picture book entitled, “Ibi’s Fireflies,” published by Scholastic. The goal of “Release Your Fireflies” is to equip children to navigate the world through storytelling, paving the way for an appreciation of human literature. Matt and Julia’s project promotes storytelling inside and outside the classroom — nurturing literacy skills, creative thinking, communication, empathy, increased confidence and self-esteem. The duo, described as “true pioneers in the pursuit of a global classroom of storytellers,” created a website where teachers can access a library of storytelling curriculum that encourages children to share their stories and reflect on them through prompts and questions. “Ibi’s Fireflies,” is under consideration by producer Tim Burton, as a full-length animated feature.
UN Art Ambassador Ibiyinka Alao’s true life story provided the inspiration for the project.
Julia Dweck — “Nelson Mandela once said, ‘That we are only people, because of the people.’ This is the spirit of ubuntu embodied in the Freedom Through Literacy Award. Our mission to share stories is a natural extension of this philosophy. After all, a story is only a story when there is someone there to listen.”
Matthew Weimann —“We are super excited to share this project with the world and help students learn and practice great story-telling. This prize will help us achieve our dreams of connecting with teachers and students from all walks of like and roads in distant lands.”
Carin Mileshosky “FleetwoodSUMMER 2018”— Fleetwood, Pa
Fleetwood Area Public Librarian Carin Mileshosky is the driving force behind this community’s effort to counter-attack the syndrome known as ‘summer slide’ where students can lose up to 2 months of learning, adding up to a full year behind grade level by the time they reach 5th grade. Carin constantly champions the fact that a public library has an important role to play in the community. This summer her initiatives attracted over 180 patrons by offering quality service, information and new technology while promoting an early and lifelong love of learning. It is no wonder that the Fleetwood Library earned the PA FORWARD Library Association’s “Gold Star Library” designation. Carin is committed to providing her community with resources, programs, and opportunities to grow as readers — to be inspired, curious and to become successful lifelong learners. She believes that by promoting all facets of literacy, she can provide her patrons the freedom to become whom they want to be and to help make their dreams a reality.
Carin Mileshosky — “After graduating from college in 1999, I did not immediately set out to become a Librarian. It was a gradual realization that came about after many years of searching for what I wanted to be when I grew up. Once I finally began my career in the library world, it seemed such an easy decision and I still often wonder what took me so long. The title of this award speaks directly to my mission as a Librarian.”
Christopher Dew “Mini-Library for Lehigh Valley H.O.P.E.”— Easton, Pa
Christopher established his library at Lehigh Valley H.O.P.E., an organization that provides clothes and household goods to the homeless. He did this as his Boy Scout’s of America Eagle Project, making him the youngest recipient of a Judith’s Reading Room Freedom Through Literacy Award. Under his leadership, Chris collaborated with other Boy Scouts to build and stain bookcases. He organized a book drive that resulted in the collection of over 600 books. Finally, he obtained furniture and a rug to turn his mini-library into a comfortable reading area. Christopher acknowledges that when you have nothing, the focus is on clothes, food — the basics. For some, books are generally not thought of as a basic need. He disagrees. Chris believes that while literacy is the foundation for education, access is the key element for literacy. Homeless families, whose needs are so great, also need to have access to books, especially children’s books so that they can expand their imagination and see what the world has to offer.
Christopher Dew — “While literacy is the foundation for education, access is the key element for literacy. Literacy is 100% dependent on having access to any kind of reading material. When I found out I was being recognized by Judith’s Reading Room, I was so shocked that I was actually speechless. I’m not even sure how I responded because I really couldn’t believe it.”
2018 Board Option $300
Ana Ramirez Luhrs “The Leadership Center Library”— Zambrano, Honduras
Ana Ramirez Luhrs
Lafayette College Skillman Librarian, Ana Luhrs, recently led a group of students to The Leadership Center (TLC) to Zambrano, Honduras to work side-by-side with 25 hand-picked young women eager to develop business and leadership skills. The goal of TLC is to educate, train and develop a new generation of female leaders by providing English immersion, business seminars and leadership training. Nominated by teachers, pastors, community leaders and government officials, this elite group of women, ranging in age from 18-29, watched as Ana curated the fledgling library and learned the importance of creating a culture of reading for pleasure. During Ana’s tenure at TLC, she noticed the gaps in genres that she felt would enhance the students’ experience. Ana has been selected to lead another group of Lafayette College students to TLC in January 2019 where they will hand-carry books to establish the 97th Judith’s Reading Room library in our organization’s 20th country!
Ana Luhrs — “Judith Krug fervently believed in the power of books and their ability to transform lives. With this award, I am honored to carry this message back to the young women leaders of The Leadership Center who are transforming their lives and their communities through education.”
2018 Board Option $200
Cheryl Stoner-Gutshall “Outdoor Education Book” — York, Pa
Cheryl, an 18-year veteran fifth grade science and social studies teacher, is also responsible for the Dover School District’s common core standards for non-fiction. Brilliantly dovetailing these two responsibilities into the “Outdoor Education Book,”she teaches every 5th grader in the district how to write and publish non-fiction e-books using I-Pads. The outdoor education program covers such diverse topics as stream and pollinator studies, vermi-composting and waste water treatment. Using the Book Creator app, students use their notes, photos and videos to compose a book (see above) about their 2 1/2 day outdoor education adventure. Books are then posted on a digital portfolio, shared district-wide. The book is the culmination of all that the students have learned about non-fiction writing.
Cheryl Stoner-Gutshall — “It is very exciting to have the Outdoor Education of Dover School District recognized by this global non-profit organization. I have always known that the Outdoor Education program was special, but now I know others do too.”
2018 Board Option $200
Marsha Townsend “Bringing Up a Bookworm”— Leesport, Pa
Marsha Townsend (left)
“Bringing Up a Bookworm,” a nonprofit initiative by 4th grade teacher Marsha Townsend, educates expectant parents about the value of reading aloud to their child even before he/she is born! Marsha and friends fill literacy-rich gift bags and deliver them to obstetricians’ offices. The doctors and nurses — wholeheartedly trusted by parents-to-be — hand the bags to their patients along with supportive ideas about the importance of reading to their babies and children. The gift bag contains a copy of Reading Magic: How Reading Aloud to Our Children will Change their Lives; a children’s board book and information about the Berks County Library system. Marsha champions the need to read aloud to newborns, infants and toddlers. She acknowledges that read-aloud time provides the basics of how a book works, the language of books, an abundance of vocabulary and bonding time with parents.
Marsha Townsend — “Both the skills for reading and the love of reading can start to develop at birth.”
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.
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.
Basarat 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.