Updated: May 31, 2020
Founded in 2000 on the belief that World Change Starts with Educated Children®, Room to Read envisions a world free from illiteracy and gender inequality. To achieve this goal, they provide support during the two most critical time periods in a child’s education: primary school for literacy acquisition and secondary school for girls’ education. Their literacy program trains and coaches teachers, creates quality books and curricular materials and establishes libraries filled with diverse children’s books in local languages that can be enjoyed at school or home. Room to Read collaborates with local communities, partner organizations and governments to test and implement innovative models that can be integrated into the education system to deliver positive outcomes for children at scale. To date, Room to Read has reached 18 million children in 39,000 worldwide communities.
“Room to Read employs more than 1,600 staff across 19 countries, with headquarters in San Francisco, CA. Of those staff, 87% are employed in our program countries worldwide. Today, we are a global organization with a goal to reach 40 million children by 2025." - Christabel Pinto, Senior Director, Global Literacy Program
Room to Read was co-founded by John Wood, Erin Ganju and Dinesh Shrestha who built a non-profit on ambitious, measurable goals. Room to Read had its origins in Nepal and expanded its reach across the world. They work in contexts that do not have well developed children’s book industries, so high-quality books for young children do not exist. If books are available at all, they 1) go beyond the ability of early readers, 2) they are translated versions of “imported” books, 3) they are not in a language children speak, and/or 4) are not appealing to young readers (boring and unattractive!). Room to Read trains in-country book creators (authors, illustrators, designers), who themselves may never have experienced a high-quality children’s book, to develop engaging local language books for emerging readers (grades 1 and 2). They also seek opportunities to partner with local publishers to strengthen and support local publishers.
“ It is not enough for high-quality books to exist, but people need to want to read them, have access to them, and know how to read. Room to Read works in communities in which there isn’t a culture of reading and homes tend to not have books to read for pleasure (or any books at all, in some cases).” - Christabel Pinto, Senior Director, Global Literacy Program
In addition, Room to Read has published more than 1600 original children’s books in 42 languages. Some of them are digitized on their online platform along with videos and other resources: www.literacycloud.org. Room to Read has begun a new 5-year strategic period in 2020; within the next five years, they want to publish books in at least five more languages and publish more genres- with the overarching goal of benefitting at least 40 million children worldwide and reaching children in 10 more countries while increasing their footprint in Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East.
The solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges—poverty, disease, climate change, conflict—all start with education. Room to Read will not stop until every child, regardless of the circumstances they were born into, can access quality education and unlock their full potential. For those inspired to join the movement, more information is available at www.roomtoread.org..
Children in Room to Read schools read 2-3 times faster and get 80%+ more correct answers on comprehension questions for a text they have just read when compared with children in comparison schools.