State College, PA Teacher Wins Literacy Award


CONTACT: Cathy Leiber

State College, PA Teacher Wins Literacy Award

The Delta Program’s Allison Lauded for Efforts to Teach ‘Advocacy to Teens’

April 10, 2024 — State College, Pennsylvania’s English teacher, Amy Allison, winner of the 2024 Judith’s Reading Room’s Freedom Through Literacy ‘Judith’s Award’ for her project titled, “Advocacy for Teens Class” was honored yesterday in front of her classroom at State College ASD’s Delta Program.  Fellow teacher, Virginia Squier who nominated Allison, Superintendent Curtis Johnson and two members of the school board, Amy Bader and Deborah Anderson were present.

Amy Allison is presented with Judith’s Award by Judith’s Reading Room co-founder Scott Leiber

Judith’s Reading Room, a global 501 (c) 3 literacy organization, was founded in 2010 in the memory of Judith F. Krug, a distinguished librarian who served as Director, Office for Intellectual Freedom at the American Library Association for 40 years.

The Freedom Through Literacy Award, given annually since 2015, honors individual champions of literacy from around the world — teachers, librarians, authors, researchers, educators — who have done exemplary work to instill in others a love of reading.  The ‘Judith’s Award’ specifically honors the applicant who best mirrors the intentions, the dreams, the insistence, the passion of Judith F. Krug.  To date, $58,600 has been awarded to 71 champions of literacy from 18 countries, including 11 US states.

The judges selected Allison to win the ‘Judith’s Award’ for teaching teens how to engage in civic and cultural literacy by first learning about their local library as a foundation for how to advocate an issue.  Krug’s life work and legacy includes Banned Books Week, established in 1982, that celebrates the First Amendment and draws attention to banned and challenged books.

Scott Leiber, Krug’s first cousin, spoke about her life-long dedication to advocating for the First Amendment especially as it affected her fellow librarians, who even at that time were subject to attack from those who disagreed that a certain book should be made available.  Leiber likened the work of Allison to that of Krug saying, “like you, Judy was a remarkable leader in the struggle to educate the public and advocate for issues concerning the right to the free expression of ideas.”

Scott and Cathy Leiber, co-founders of Judith’s Reading Room, presented Allison with her trophy and cash prize of $1,500.  Allison informed the gathering that the prize will be spent in support of a student-led advocacy project.

The mission of Judith’s Reading Room is to enrich lives and societies by proactively encouraging freedom through literacy.  The organization has fulfilled that mission by establishing 106 libraries (and counting!) in 23 countries with over 133,000 books donated worth $1.4 million.

Applications for the 2025 Freedom Through Literacy Award will be available at beginning October 7, 2024.  Deadline for Applications is February 3, 2025.

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JUDITH’S AWARD – 2023 Freedom Through Literacy

Judith’s Award – $1,500

Amber Drinen – “R.E.A.D. in Beauty Bookmobile”
Chinle, Arizona

The $1,500 Judith’s Award winner is Amber Drinen for “R.E.A.D. in Beauty Bookmobile” project, an initiative of Chinle Planting Hope in Chinle, Arizona, a Native-controlled nonprofit that supervises the Bookmobile which serves 34,000 members of the Navajo Nation, where there is no public library.

There is great excitement about the Bookmobile, according to David Goldberg, MD, who notes in his letter of reference, “There is an ambitious, thoughtful plan to bring books and library programing to the communities surrounding Chinle.  Lives are about to be enriched; memories will be formed; and sparks of wonder are in the offing.” For example, Bookmobile staff provide assistance with laptops, internet and STEM activities while maintaining the on-board library of 10,000 catalogued books for children K-12. 

“Children must experience the joy of a good story and what it means to lose yourself in the pages.”
   Amber Drinen

JUDITH’S AWARD – 2022 Freedom Through Literacy

 “Judith’s Award” awarded to the champion of literacy teacher, librarian or author

Judith’s Award – $1,500

Dominique Zara – “Ready for Life”

If you meet librarian Dominique Zara, winner of our 2022 Judith’s Award, you will marvel at her humility and enthusiasm. Committed to supporting the more vulnerable members of her community, she is credited with building the only English learning program at her
library in Romania. More than 270 children have benefited from the engaging, creative library activities she’s organized and even more children have borrowed books to enjoy at home. And yet, ask Zara about her work, and she’d admit, “I wasn’t convinced that my actions [were] worthy of such an award.”
We are thrilled to change her mind by recognizing Dominique Zara as winner of the 2022 Judith’s Award for her investment in the education and lives of socially vulnerable families and Roma children. Her library programs have brought out smiles and laughter of Resita’s young children and continues to lift the English and Roma skills of its community. We believe that is definitely  worth celebrating.
“The Librarian who wanted to become a police officer …. In the last year, I understood that my job is just as important as the job of a doctor, teacher, firefighter or policeman. I understood that we too, the librarians, can save souls, or even more correctly, we can fulfill dreams. Whether we are talking about a child’s dream, the farmer’s dream or any library user. But, being named the 2022 Judith’s Award winner … it totally overwhelms me. In my 21 years as a librarian, this is the first recognition of my efforts for literacy.” 
   – Dominique Zara

JUDITH’S AWARD – 2021 Freedom Through Literacy

Judith’s Award – $1,500

Joicki Floyd – “Y.O.U.T.H. (You Open Up Then Heal)”

With her philosophy of “reading is fun-to-da-mental (fundamental),” Ms. Joicki Floyd began her Y.O.U.T.H. program to enable students in finding motivation, positivity, and a love of reading in the face of difficulty. Y.O.U.T.H. works with students who may not see themselves as readers and uses strategies like Socratic Seminars, discussion panels with city officials, and open mics, to spark change in their mindsets. A crucial element is Joicki’s engagement with the community; to her, seeing your neighbor or local store owner with a book in hand is as important as working directly with students. If everyone is a reader, it’s easy to join the club. We warmly recognize Joicki as winner of the 2021 Judith’s Award for her investment in building a culture of support and reading in her community.

“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.”– Joicki Floyd

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.







Virtual Award Celebration – Sept. 26, 2020

JUDITH’S AWARD – 2020 Freedom Through Literacy

Judith’s Award – $1,500

Ty Allan Jackson, “Big Head Books”
Bronx, New York

Too often, children’s books represent non-white protagonists within a narrow range of topics.  Award-winning author Ty Allan Jackson writes highly engaging books that buck this tradition, offering children who don’t always see themselves in the stories they read the opportunity for a  different portrayal of their lives.

His books, including Danny Dollar Millionaire Extraordinaire and The Supadupa Kid superhero series, have garnered the attention of several awards and features on local and national news. More importantly, they have reached countless young Black and other minoritzed children with a powerful message:
your story is limitless.

We recognize Ty as winner of the 2020 Judith’s Award for his commitment to expanding narratives with his books.

“As an Indie author winning this award is a surreal experience. Awards usually go to the more established authors. The ones with the big followings and who dominate the bookshelves in bookstores and libraries across the county. Not the authors fighting to be noticed or begging bookstore to carry our works. So this award means that the little guy can make it. Get the accolade and gain the respect of the world of literature. But most importantly receive the love for those we write and draw for…our children. 

Thank you for proving that our work matters!
                                                                                                  -Ty Allan Jackson”


Slide Show


JUDITH’S AWARD – 2019 Freedom Through Literacy

Judith’s Award $500

Vicky Xanthopoulou- “Let’s Play Book”
Potamia, North Greece


Children in the village of Potamia on Thassos Island in North Greece have little access to books; without a library, it had been difficult for the community to foster solid reading skills. That’s why Vicky, an elementary school teacher, jumped into action. She created “Let’s Play Book,” which encourages children to interpret the world around them through reading and playing with books that she and other local authors have created.

In her honor, we announce the establishment of its 98th library in Vicky’s village of Potamia, starting with a donation of 75 children’s books.

We also happily recognize Vicky and her “Let’s Play Book” program as winner of the 2019 Judith’s Award.



Let’s play book (LPB) is a reading promotion project based on sociocultural, constructivist, ecological systems and experiental theories of learning. LPB focuses on the social and cultural dimensions of learning and promotes equal opportunities for all students. Children are encouraged to understand and interpret the world around them through reading and playing with books. By setting the book at the center of the learning process and through a diverse range of reading animations I am trying to create social landscapes inside the classroom which stimulate children and incite them to interact with each other.

I am hugely honored to receive ‘Judith’s Award’ by Judith’s Reading Room whose visionary work and ideals appeal to the highest of my aspirations.

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