Issue 6, February 2010
Message From Our Team

Dear Friends:

In honor of it being the month that celebrates Mother’s Day, we are celebrating the women’s empowerment! We’ve seen first-hand that girls who have the resources and mentoring necessary to complete their education grow up to become empowered women who make better decisions for themselves and their families. Those educated women also become role models in their communities, just like our mothers were for us. The power of educating a girl has been proven almost 10,000 times over by the incredible girls who have participated in Room to Read’s Girls’ Education program. You can read more about the positive impact the program has had in eight countries by downloading the new 2009 Girls’ Education Yearbook (pdf).


We hope that you will join us this Mother’s Day as we each thank our mothers and the influential women in our lives for the lessons and opportunities they’ve provided over the years, and we hope that you consider paying it forward in their honor by making a donation to the Girls’ Education program. This May, all donations made to the Girls’ Education program will be matched up to $150,000 by an anonymous donor, meaning your contribution will go twice as far.

We hope you too can find inspiration and give thanks to those special women in your life. We know the almost 10,000 girls in the developing world who you have helped support through our Girls’ Education program thank you.

Happy Mother’s Day to all!


Room to Read Team

It’s Here – the 2008 Girls’ Education Yearbook

The new 2008 Girls’ Education Yearbook is hot off-the-presses and we hope you will have a look to learn more about this important program that brings education to thousands of girls who, ordinarily, would not have the opportunity to go to school. In the Yearbook you’ll read personal stories and hear true accounts from the girls about how their lives have been changed by the gift of education thanks to the Girls’ Education program. We thank all of you who support this important program and enable these girls to stay in school!

Not Just Classroom Skills: Girl’s Ed Offers Life Skills

Recognizing that schooling alone does not adequately prepare a girl to meet the challenges of everyday life, Room to Read has added age-and grade-appropriate “Life Skills” training workshops to our Girls’ Education program. The workshops, led by experienced facilitators and local mentors, round out the girls’ academic education with real-life skills that are essential to their long-term success – including self-awareness, effective communication, critical thinking, decision-making and many more.

In 2008, we covered a wide array of topics and themes in the workshops, including hygiene, peer pressure, gender roles, child rights, reproductive health and career guidance. These half-day to multi-day workshops and ongoing activities have become critical components to Room to Read’s Girls’ Education program because they underscore our programmatic goal of empowering girls to make informed life choices. The response from parents has been overwhelmingly positive as they see encouraging changes in their daughters’ self-esteem and academic performance. Our early success has inspired us to continue to develop and contextualize “Life Skills” workshops in the seven countries where we operate the Girl’s Education program. We look forward to creating more opportunities and identifying forums where girls can practice, showcase and share their skills and learning’s with others.

Learn more about the Girls’ Education Program »

Chapters are comprised of individuals who have made a long-term volunteer commitment to promoting Room to Read within their communities, and we depend on their network to achieve our goals.  Learn more about our chapter network here. Join us for events scheduled in:

February 19 – Sydney
February 27 –- Aspen
February 28 – London
March 4 – Edmonton
March 8 – San Francisco

>> Click here for more details about upcoming local events.

Help us give children in India, Nepal and Sri Lanka the opportunity to gain the literacy skills necessary to become independent readers. Room to Read continually looks for ways to sponsor new and innovative initiatives that we can test locally, then scale globally. Our pilot projects allow us to save time and money before fully implementing a new program.  Support our pilot programs today!

Meet Dhir Jhingran: Chief Program Officer

It’s been three years since Dhir Jhingram originally joined Room to Read as its Asia Regional Director at a time when there wasn’t exactly a regional office (it was his house, really). Dhir’s introduction to the organization happened while he was on sabbatical from an accomplished career in elementary education for the government of India, focused especially on educating children in some of the most deprived communities. Dhir tells us more about that time and his recent transition from Room to Read Asia Regional Director to Chief Program Officer, a position that places him front and center as a leader in the organization’s march toward improving literacy for children in primary school in the countries where we work.

You come from a very distinguished educational background working with the India government.  Tell us about your background and why Room to Read became a part of your professional journey.

I have worked with the government of India for over 20 years, beginning my professional career in the education sector with adult literacy programs in 1989. Five years later I was working with grassroots women’s organizations and youth groups to spread awareness for literacy. My work eventually led me to serving as  director of elementary education for the Ministry of Human Resource Development in India, where I was responsible for guiding the Education For All (EFA) program, a $4 billion national campaign to universalize elementary education in the country.

The focus of my work in government primary education has been on two major issues – equity and quality. In the initial years, our focus was more on ensuring that children from disadvantaged communities and marginalized groups get enrolled in primary schools. Gradually, our focus shifted towards improving the quality of school education including revision of curriculum and textbooks and teacher preparation. My most satisfying experiences during those years include the return of peace and reduction in ethnic conflict as a result of the literacy campaign that transformed the environment of suspicion in just over a year.

I became familiar with Room to Read through the then India Country Director. I liked Room to Read’s approach of providing good children’s literature to primary schools to support children’s reading habit. There was also an effort to help children learn to read, and I felt that this was a useful way of going beyond the very limited textbook-based teaching and memorization that was happening in the schools. When I was offered the regional position, I was also attracted to it since it would give me an opportunity to better understand the education systems of other countries in Asia.

Room to Read is going through some exciting transitions as we embark on our second decade. Can you tell us more about your new role as Chief Program Officer and how it relates to the new strategic vision for the organization?

One of the two goals of Room to Read’s new strategic vision is to help children become independent readers – children who can read and write well with comprehension and also enjoy reading and be able to learn from what they are reading. As Chief Program Officer, I will be responsible for guiding the work of reading instruction programs in all Room to Read countries. I will head the new Literacy Team that will support the development of the design of new reading and literacy pilots and their implementation, in addition to overseeing the design of students’ assessments and program evaluation. This is really challenging because we will be working with the government school system to improve the teaching of reading in the classrooms as well as helping students develop a strong reading habit. Teacher professional development will be an important part of our work. For the first time, the organization will hold itself accountable to identified outcomes for children.

What excites you most about the roadmap for Room to Read’s future?

Reading is a foundation skill that shapes most of the learning that happens in school. Much of the low academic achievement among students in primary and secondary schools in developing countries can be attributed to poor reading skill development in the early years. If children do not learn to read well with understanding, they will never read adequately. Also, as school texts become more difficult and abstract, it becomes impossible for children who have not achieved grade level reading ability to keep pace with what is being taught in various subjects. Lack of reading habit is a big reason for the poor background knowledge of children. Thus, Room to Read’s goal of developing reading skills and habit is directly linked to the goal of improving the quality of education (and student outcomes).

This is an extension of our current work with school libraries that targets students’ reading habits. By adding a strong component for reading skill development, the program will become a well rounded comprehensive reading program in the coming years.

>> We're hiring! Learn about our current career opportunities.

Financial Times’ Seasonal Appeal Raises over $4.3M for Room to Read!

Thanks to the Financial Times’ 2009 seasonal appeal which was launched in November, Room to Read was able to raise US$4,330,758 for our work – making this the FT’s most successful giving campaign to date!  Part of that success can be attributed to lead sponsor Barclays Capital, Credit Suisse, and Atlassian.


“We are delighted that the appeal has raised so much for such a worthy cause," said Lionel Barber, the editor of the FT. "The FT believes literacy and access to education form one of the most powerful tools for promoting economic development. Thank you to our readers and fund-matching donors who have given so very generously and to all involved in making this appeal such a success.”

As part of the appeal, Room to Read’s programs in Laos, Nepal and Sri Lanka were highlighted in a series of feature articles in the print and online editions of the Financial Times. The funds raised totaled enough to provide access to quality educational programs for more than 173,000 children – that equals 1,083 new libraries, or 2.8 million copies of new children’s books into circulation, or building 131 primary schools!

Contributions from FT readers to the appeal totaled US$1,260,178 but the grand tally was much higher, thanks to special fundraising events and matching donations from corporations including lead sponsor Barclays Capital ($800,000), Credit Suisse ($100,000) and Atlassian ($100,000). A gala wine-tasting evening hosted by the FT’s wine writer Jancis Robinson raised $1,582,580, and an online auction organized by Quintessentially raised $88,000.

“Barclays Capital has been delighted to support Room to Read as the lead sponsor for the FT Seasonal Appeal, helping to raise more than $4 million for the organization,” said Wendy Lloyd, Head of Community Investment. “'Banking on Brighter Futures' is Barclays Capital's main charitable giving theme and we know that, by working with Room to Read, our funding is being put to the best possible use to educate disadvantaged children across the globe.”

“Thanks to the FT seasonal appeal, we will now be able to say ‘yes’ to funding educational projects that will reach tens of thousands of additional children.” said John Wood. “To all who have contributed: a sincere and heartfelt thank you.” 

>> Click here to read all the articles or contribute toward the campaign.


 Teacher Training in Bangladesh Improves Reading Hour

Rashida Khatun is the Head Teacher of Chawk Sohagpur Government Primary School in Sirajganj district in Bangladesh which means she’s in charge of the school’s 11 teachers. This year, Room to Read is partnering with her school to establish classroom libraries for its 712 students.

To prepare for this new addition to their school, Rashida and her colleagues completed a 3-day training from Room to Read entitled Classroom Library Management and Facilitation so that they could learn about the importance of incorporating a library period into the school’s curriculum.  Following the training, students began attending a Reading Hour each week which consisted of a period devoted to students accessing the classroom libraries. Teachers are required to be on-hand during the Reading Time to help students use the library resources.

Rashida was very appreciative of the new library for her school: “As the Head Teacher I can say, after receiving this training, that the ‘Classroom Library’ will be extremely useful in improving the quality of education among students.  This program will improve children’s knowledge, skills and perceptions. The children will be able to read and understand many matters and by using those teachings they will be able to solve many of their problems.”

Room to Read is working in partnership with the Bangladesh government and SHARP, a local NGO, to implement classroom libraries in 44 primary schools in Sirajganj and hold trainings for the district’s 251 teachers.

>> Click here to learn more about our Reading Room (library) program.