Issue 12, September 2011
Message From Our Team

Dear Friends,

At Room to Read, we understand that basic literacy is the gateway to all future learning. Acquisition of literacy skills and a habit of reading is critical for an individual’s full economic, political, and social participation in today’s increasingly global society. We also know from years of research by experts in the field that low levels of literacy skills account for much of the low academic achievement among students, especially in the countries where we work throughout Asia and Africa. As school texts become more complex with each grade level, children that do not have a strong foundation in reading and writing fall behind and often drop out—thus continuing the cycle of poverty in their family for another generation.

But that does not have to be the case. One of Room to Read’s primary goals is to help children become independent and lifelong readers. We want to see generations of children who can not only read and write with comprehension, but who also enjoy reading and are able to learn from what they read.

In our new 2010 Annual Report, you will discover more about Room to Read’s work supporting literacy through our libraries, schools, local language books and our new program that aims at improving the quality of literacy instruction in early primary grades. With the goal of reaching 10 million children by 2015, Room to Read is more committed than ever to changing the world through the transformative power of education.

Imagine a world in which every child learns to read. We hope you will join us in making it a reality.

Warm regards,

Dhir Jhingran
Chief Program Officer for Literacy, Room to Read

P.S. All donations made through the month of September will be matched up to $40,000 in honor of International Literacy Day, September 8, thanks to our partner, Better World Books.

For every tweet of this message Random House will donate $1 to our literacy programs in Asia and Africa.
(up to $30,000)

Internatiional Literacy Day 2010, Room to Read Vietnam

Read more about our International Literacy Day campaign »

One Vision for World Change, 10 Years of Impact: Our 2010 Annual Report

In our first decade, Room to Read has achieved more than we ever dreamed imaginable. Read about our formula for success, and meet the families and communities that are benefitting from our programs in our 2010 Annual Report.

Download the report »

UNESCO Honors Local Language Publishing Program with 2011 Confucius Prize for Literacy

We are truly honored to report that on July 28, 2011, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) announced that Room to Read was chosen as one of two recipients of the 2011 Confucius Prize for Literacy! Established in 2005, the award recognizes the activities of outstanding individuals, governments or governmental agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working in the field of literacy.

Room to Read was recognized specifically for our work improving literacy through the development of high-quality, culturally-relevant children’s literature in 25 local languages. With all content for our 553 original children’s book titles (to date) sourced from local authors and illustrators, Room to Read’s commitment to increasing local capacity was of particular interest to the international selection committee, which met in early July to choose this year’s recipients.

"As an organization, we are honored by this amazing recognition of our success in helping to create imaginative and instructive children’s books that are well read and cherished by millions of children," said Erin Ganju, Room to Read Co-Founder and CEO.

Room to Read will officially accept the prize—including a $20,000 grant and a silver medal—on September 8 at UNESCO’s International Literacy Day celebration in New Delhi, India. Additionally, Room to Read’s programs will be featured by the UNESCO Literacy Prize Secretariat at a photo exhibition from September 3-10 at UNESCO’s headquarters in Paris.

Read the press release »

Ambassador Melanne Verveer Visits Room to Read’s Programs in India

It’s not every day that a foreign dignitary drops by the school library for a chat, but that’s exactly what happened on July 22, when Melanne Verveer, the U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues had a chance to visit a Room to Read library in New Delhi, India.

The library, established by Room to Read in 2007, is now run independently by the school’s administration and with help from a local NGO. Always a hub of activity, the room was buzzing with excitement on the morning of Ambassador Verveer’s visit. The day began with a traditional greeting by primary school students, who treated the ambassador to a welcome song, as well as a reading of an English-language book. Ambassador Verveer then took her turn to read aloud, with simultaneous translation into Hindi provided by one of the students.

After story time, the ambassador met with 10 of Room to Read’s Girls’ Education program participants, who shared with her their experiences and ambitions. "Not even our parents could ever imagine us going this far with far with our education," shared Bharati, who was recently accepted into a graduate program at a college in New Delhi.

The ambassador’s visit is the latest step in an exciting partnership between Room to Read and the U.S. Department of State, which has funded several of our programs across South Asia since 2010.

Read more about the Ambassador's visit on our blog »

Our volunteer chapters are led by enthusiastic and dedicated individuals who work tirelessly to promote Room to Read in their communities and around the globe. Room to Read boasts chapters in 53 cities worldwide, and we anticipate that number to continue to grow each year.

Learn more about our chapter network »

Join us for events scheduled in:

Zurich: September 3
London: September 13
Singapore: September 16 & September 22
Atlanta: September 17
Toronto: September 29

Get additional details about our upcoming events »

icon Our Need

Help Room to Read celebrate International Literacy Day, September 8, by investing in our literacy programs in Asia and Africa. All donations made in the month of September will be matched by Better World Books up to US$40,000.


The Next Generation of World-Changers: Eight Teens Take the Trek of a Lifetime in Zambia

Since 2002, Room to Read has been inviting investors several times a year to visit our programs in Asia and Africa. These "treks" give donors the opportunity to see the impact their gifts have had on the lives of children, and it is always a special experience for everyone involved. This year, Room to Read embarked on uncharted territory in our trek tradition. This past July, eight young adults, aged 15-23, participated in Room to Read’s first-ever Teen Trek. Putting a twist on the traditional summer vacation, Nick, Tegan, Kate, David, Kyle, Rachel, Robert and James headed to Zambia for a week to get a closer look at Room to Read’s work in the country, and to learn about what they can do to make a lasting impact in the developing world.

Accompanied by their parents, the teens spent seven days on the ground in Zambia—participating in classroom exercises, meeting with Zambian freedom fighters, visiting the home of a Girls’ Education scholar, and visiting the wondrous Victoria Falls.

The trip was a first for several of the students to a developing country, and the experience was transformative for all. One teen trekker even committed to spending her gap year between high school and college teaching in Africa, having witnessed first-hand on the trek the power quality education has in underserved communities.

Thanks to our teens for making Room to Read’s first-ever Teen Trek such a success, and to their parents for their commitment to raising philanthropic global citizens.

Learn more about our Students Helping Students initiative »

Pearson Foundation Funds New Fellowship to Support Local Language Publishing

Strategic thinking is at the heart of Room to Read’s operations. As we continue to expand our programs, both in scope and footprint, we strive to ensure that we are incorporating best practices from both the public and private sectors to achieve the maximum possible impact.

This year, that includes partnering with the Pearson Foundation to bring onboard a Local Language Publishing program fellow—a lead editor from Pearson’s editorial team. Starting in September for six months, the new fellow will travel to all Room to Read program countries, evaluating the operations and practices in each country and making recommendations for potential enhancements. The Pearson Foundation will underwrite the cost of the fellowship as part of their ongoing support for Room to Read, which includes actively funding our programs through the We Give Books initiative.

"We are committed to providing children with materials that will inspire them to read, expand their minds and develop a lifelong love for reading and learning," says Erin Ganju, Room to Read CEO. "This new fellow has the publishing experience necessary to help us achieve that goal with maximum efficiency."

Read more about our Corporate Partners »

Teacher Training and Updated Materials Spell Success in Nepal’s Classrooms

Ms. Gita Bhattarai has been teaching 1st grade at Shree Buddhi Bikash Primary School for a long time, but says that helping her young students understand the basics of Nepali phonetics is always a challenge. "The Nepali language has an array of symbols, and each symbol when associated with an alphabet resonates differently," she says. "For children, mastering the alphabets along with the symbols is a daunting exercise."

But the challenges facing young readers in Nepal’s rural areas go far beyond the complexities of the region’s language. "Most schools lack adequate resources and teaching aids," says Ms. Bhattarai, who noticed that as a result, many children in her class lacked the basic reading fundamentals necessary to read at grade level.

This is all starting to change, however, with Ms. Bhattarai’s class having been selected for Room to Read’s Literacy Instruction program. The program supplements the teaching materials provided to her class by the government—providing picture cards, posters and "big books" to enhance learning. The picture cards in particular, she says, are extremely popular with the students. "There are two sets of cards—one with words and the other with matching pictures," Ms. Bhattarai goes on to explain. "Students have to identify the picture and then pick out the card from the other stack with correct word to match."

Room to Read also provides Ms. Bhattarai with professional development training, which introduced her to a more interactive method of teaching. "Ever since we started incorporating the new activities into the curriculum," she says, "we have witnessed an enormous change in the attitude of the students—they are now keen to attend school and participate."