India is a diverse and complex country with a rich history that is home to over one billion people. India became an independent nation in 1947, after a nation-wide struggle was initiated to overthrow the British rule that had lasted for hundreds of years.

The agriculture, textile, tourism and technology industries play a major role in contributing to India’s GDP, but natural disasters such as flooding, droughts and earthquakes have long plagued the country and been a hindrance to infrastructure development.

The demographic pattern in India presents a myriad of challenges to development work, especially in the education sector, including the country’s complexity of language. Only 30% of Indians speak Hindi and 18 other languages have official status—including English, the language of business and government. Such linguistic diversity can make developing statewide education standards extremely difficult.

India is also home to a number of religious groups, and a complex social system of caste structure that have historically presented a challenge to development. Many Indians’ futures, access to education and other opportunities are still predetermined by their social status at birth.

Population 1.25 billion
Land area 3 million Km2
National languages of instruction Hindi, English, Assamese, Bengali, Kannada, Konkani, Marathi, Telugu, Urdu, Tamil, Malayalam, Oriya
Launch of operations 2003
Room to Read office New Delhi
Where we work Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Jharkhand, Telangana

Educational Landscape

Of all the world's illiterate people, 37% live in India, and despite recent economic growth, India still lacks the basic resources to educate many of its people. Schooling is free and compulsory from ages 6-14, however inadequate facilities, lecture-based curriculum and gender bias cause 40% of students—mostly girls—to drop out before secondary school.  In 2005, it was estimated that 35 million primary school children were not enrolled in school. 

If drastic measures are not taken to reverse this trend, it’s estimated that by the year 2020, over half of the world’s illiterate population will live in India.

Programs & Results

Room to Read India was established in 2003 as the fourth country of operations with an initial focus on establishing libraries. In India’s crowded nonprofit sector, our initial research showed libraries to be the greatest initial contribution we could make.

In the years since launch, our operations in India have grown to include Book Publishing, Girls’ Education and Reading & Writing Instruction. We work in rural and semi-urban communities and urban slums.

The country’s vibrant NGO community allows us to leverage many NGO partnerships and amplify our impact in the areas where we work. Some such implementation partners include: Adoni Area Rural Development Initiative Program, Alarippu R, Alwar Mewar Institute for Education And Development, Association of Social Health in India, Centre for Research and Development Concerns, Empowerment for Rehabilitation, Academic Health, Garhwal Vikas Kendra, Gramin Mahila Vikas Sansthan, Gramin Utthan Samiti, Himachal Pradesh Voluntary Health Association, Hope Project Charitable Trust, Jan Chetna Sansthan, Jan Sahas Social Development Society, Kumaon Agriculture and Greenery Advancement Society, Mahila Chetna Manch, Nari Shakti Jagran Samiti, Nav Srishti, Pragati Gramin Vikas Sanstha, Prayatn Sanstha, Prerana Service Society, Rajasthan Mahila Kalyan Mandal, Roman Catholic Diocesan Social Service Society, Rural Development Society, SAKSHI, Samantar, Samarth Charitable Trust, Shree Jan Jeevan Kalyan Sanstha, Shri Bhuvneshwari Mahila Ashram, Society for Integrated Development of Himalayas, Society to Uplift Rural Economy, The Himalaya Trust, Tilonia Shodh Evam Vikas Sansthan, Urmul Marusthali Bunker Vikas Samiti  and Vikalp.

Cumulative results
Libraries established 6,801
Book titles published 160
School construction projects -
Girls' Education participants 6,998

Results updated annually

Meet our local staff:
Sunisha Ahuja, Country Director

“Women make up half of the world’s population—not educating half of the population would be the crime of the century,” says Sunisha Ahuja, Room to Read’s founding country director in India.

An avid traveler who loves to read, Sunisha holds a master’s in child development and has spent the past 18 years working with grassroots nonprofits, government programs and multinational NGOs to help disadvantaged communities throughout India.

“My favorite part of my job is when I get to meet the children, teachers and community members who have great pride in the success they have achieved because of the support they received,” she says.


See our work

Visit a school or library in any of the countries where we work and meet the local team that makes it all possible.

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Documentary filmmakers travel to Room to Read projects across Asia and Africa to tell the stories of children who are benefitting from our programs.

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You can change the world

Send a girl to school, start a library, or build new classrooms. We can help you run your own fundraising campaign with your friends and family, complete with your own microsite to collect gifts and track your progress.

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Have questions?

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Global Office:
+1 (415) 839-4400
9am-5pm Pacific Time (US)
Mon-Fri, excluding holidays

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