Room to Read
Issue 4, August 2009
Message From Our Team

Dear Fellow Room to Read Supporter,

Nine years ago, I met John Wood - a charismatic man with a dream. His enthusiasm and commitment to educating children were infectious.  Soon after our first meeting, I was also convinced that focusing my time and energy to education in the developing world was an excellent investment that would pay dividends for generations to come.

As Chair of the Board of Directors for Room to Read, I've seen the organization grow exponentially, in programs, in staff and in supporters.  We're extremely proud of what has been achieved, which you can read about in our 2008 Annual Report ( Adobe PDF 3.4MB).  However, we continue to challenge ourselves and our supporters for the years ahead.  Our Room to Dream campaign, of which I am Co-Chair, is a milestone effort for the organization, both in fundraising and in program expansion. As you'll see in the stories below, our flagship library and book programs are critical components to this growth and through the Room to Dream campaign, 11,000 communities will receive new libraries stocked with children's books and staffed with trained librarians.  In my travels to Nepal, Vietnam and Cambodia, I've seen first-hand what a gift libraries and books are to the children and their families. Their appreciation is overwhelming and truly unforgettable.

We are more than half-way to our goal of raising US$50MM for the campaign, and I now invite you to become our partners in this ambitious journey.  Together, we can change the world, one child at a time.

Kind regards,
HValentine signature_small
Hilary Ayn Valentine

In the News
A Year in Review:
The 2008 Annual Report

Our 2008 Annual Report (Adobe PDF 3.4 MB) is out and available for download!  We encourage you to read all about the remarkable successes and milestones we experienced last year, including the fact that over 3 million children now have access to improved educational opportunities thanks to our programs and your support.

Room to Read Addresses Displaced Children in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka

John Wood recently joined Room to Read Sri Lanka Country Director, Glenfrey De Mel, at meetings with Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake (pictured on right), opposition leader (and former PM) Ranil Wickremasinghe, Minister of Education Susil Premajayantha, and other officials to discuss Room to Read's nonpartisan pledge to helping the nearly 60,000 displaced children living in the government "welfare villages" in northern and eastern Sri Lanka as a result of the recently-ended civil war.

The children in the camps have minimal access to educational facilities to continue their education, which is why Room to Read has joined humanitarian efforts to respond swiftly to their needs. We are working closely with UNICEF on an initiative to establish pre-schools and provide teacher training for education facilitators; provide 50 mobile libraries to 200 temporary learning centers within the camps; and distribute 100,000 Tamil, Sinhala and English-language children's books. Already Room to Read is moving quickly, as 50,000 Tamil-language children's books published through our local language program have begun arriving at 525 schools in the north and east.

"We now have an added responsibility as a nation and also as a non-profit organization to provide educational opportunities for the children battered by the war," said Glenfrey during an interview with the national daily newspaper Sunday Observer. "Education is the only gateway to leading a successful life."

This is only the most recent of Room to Read's efforts to support the education of children in Sri Lanka, where we have operated since the devastating 2004 tsunami. To date, Room to Read has established over 650 libraries and over 200 schools; distributed over 600,000 Sinhala, Tamil and English-language books; and helped 1,200 girls enroll and stay in school across Sri Lanka.

>> Learn more about our programs in Sri Lanka

Local Language Publishing Program Wins Award and a Royal Recognition


On May 28 during a ceremony in Vientiane, Laos, the Ministry of Information and Culture selected two of Room to Read's Local Language Program titles as winners of the 2009 Laos Book Excellence Award. This marks the second year in a row that the Room to Read Laos LLP team has received the honor. The winning stories - Nang-Oy's Dream and Many Bags - were published by Room to Read and selected from 678 adult and children's books published throughout Laos last year.


Nang-Oy's Dream is a story about a young girl, Nang-Oy, who is unable to go to school because her parents expect her to take care of her baby brother, do household chores, and care for the animals. In the end, Nang-Oy's parents agree to share household chores so their daughter can receive the education they never had. Nang-Oy's Dream is the third book written and illustrated by Mr. Vongsavan Damlongsook for Room to Read Laos.

The environmentally-themed Many Bags, written by Mr. Rangsit Thanasook, was the winning entry in a writing competition sponsored by Room to Read Laos last year. Mr. Rangsit has written a number of articles advocating the promotion of the local Lao language; Many Bags is his second children's book.

Room to Read's LLP team in Nepal also recently received a special honor of their own. Thanks to the efforts of a Room to Read supporter with royal connections, our team in Nepal received a personal thank you note from Buckingham Palace on behalf Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth of England and her husband Prince Philip. The royal couple was delighted to receive copies of Room to Read's Tommy Tempo book series in honor of Her Majesty's 83rd birthday and pleasantly surprised our team with a thoughtful note of gratitude from her Lady-in-Waiting.

>> Learn more about our Local Language Publishing program

Chapters and Events

 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:

>> Calgary - September 26
>> San Francisco - October 15
>> Boston - November 5

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

Media Alert: John Wood in Conversation with Bill Gates, Sr.

On August 7 at 8pm PST, John's June 17 interview with Bill Gates, Sr. at the Commonwealth Club will air on KQED 88.5FM and other national radio stations.

 Donate Now!

 Every day that a child does not have the ability to read a book is an opportunity lost. The success of the Room to Dream campaign means that by 2010 more than 11,000 communities will have their first library and close to 9 million books will be available to children throughout the developing world.  Please help us reach this goal and support the Room to Dream campaign today.

Atlassian Campaign Generates Big Support Down Under
Atlassian logo

Room to Read's support base in Australia continues to grow thanks to the recent efforts of Atlassian - an Australian software company specializing in collaboration and development tools.

Earlier this year, Atlassian CEO and Co-Founder, Mike Cannon-Brookes attended a wine gala hosted by Room to Read's Sydney chapter where he met John Wood and soon became interested in exploring ways to partner with Room to Read from a corporate perspective.

As a result, in April Atlassian launched a 5-day campaign called the "Atlassian Stimulus Package," where for just $5 clients could purchase five user licenses for two of the company's best-selling products - JIRA and Confluence, normally about $2,500 each - and all proceeds would benefit Room to Read. Atlassian set a goal of raising US$25,000 to support Room to Read's programs (equal to selling 5,000 licenses) through the one-time special offer. What they didn't expect was that they would exceed that goal within the first 24 hours of the campaign! By the end of the five days, Atlassian sold over 13,000 licenses across 85 countries, and raised an astounding US$110,000 for Room to Read. Atlassian's donation will benefit the Room to Dream campaign through supporting our Local Language Publishing and Reading Room programs in Cambodia, as well as providing support to our Girls' Education program in Cambodia.

The unexpected success of the initiative has opened the door to the re-launch of the campaign later this year.

Click here to view a video of John's presentation at a recent Atlassian conference. Room to Read looks forward to a long-term partnership with Atlassian to develop new and creative fundraising initiatives that will enable us to reach millions more children with the gift of education.

>> Learn more about our Corporate Partners

University Scholars to Build Library in Honor of Faculty Member
Dr Neeley

Alumni and current scholars of the Ingram Scholars Program at Vanderbilt University decided to get creative about how they would honor the 15 years of service by their beloved program director, Dr. Ann Neely, and they turned to Room to Read for help.

Dr. Neely's love of a good children's book is no secret to her fellow education faculty, the hundreds of Ingram Scholars and thousands of students she has guided through Vanderbilt.  Also widely known is Dr. Neely's newfound fondness for leading groups of her Vanderbilt students to explore South Africa's rich and troubled history and the momentous cultural transitions taking place.  It started after she made her first visit in the spring of 2008 to Cape Town; that trip and her own childhood growing up in Alabama during the U.S. Civil rights movement led Dr. Neely to develop a class in the spring of 2009, "The Literature of Transformation and Post Apartheid Literature for Children and Adolescents."

During a visit to a primary school in the Mannenberg Township, Dr. Neely noted in her online journal: "I suspect that I have more books in my office library than the school for 700 children has. Teachers and moms volunteer to maintain the collection. I am certain that all reading this blog can easily imagine what plans I am considering for a service project!" 

That comment got the scholars of the Ingram Scholars program thinking about ways in which they could pay tribute to Dr. Neely's love of children's literature and her fondness for South Africa. Part of the challenge was picking something that she couldn't give right back to charity, as is her habit.

At a gathering commemorating the 15th Anniversary of the Ingram Scholarship Program, current scholars and alumni decided there was no better way to honor Dr. Neely's committed years of service to the students of Vanderbilt, her passion for social change and dedication to South Africa than making sure there is a safe child-friendly environment to enable and encourage learning. They decided to build a Room to Read library in South Africa that will be filled with 1,000 local language and English children's books and other educational activities for hundreds of children and their families to enjoy. Already the efforts of the Ingram Scholar network has paid off, as they have raised $10,000 towards their goal of $15,000 to fund the official Dr. Ann Neely Library!

>> Learn more about how to get involved with Room to Read

 Story Time


A Wonderful Surprise
Wonderful Surprise

Sabin Silwal can't wait for his vacation to be over so he can go back to school. His impatience started the day he stumbled upon a wonderful surprise while playing football on the school's playground: he saw teachers busily decorating the library with the most colorful and interesting books he had ever seen.

Sabin is one of 120 students at Shree Fulchowki School. Though only an hour from Kathmandu, the school serves a rural population, attracting students traditionally unable to receive an education due to lack of access and financial resources. Their parents work in the nearby quarry and most of them have never been to school.

For over 20 years, Harish Chandra Silwal has been teaching at the Shree Fulchowki School - the school he himself attended. "Back when I was in this school, a library was something that nobody would have imagined. Now, as I leaf through these books, I see how lucky our students are," says Mr. Silwal.
After discovering the books - many of which were produced by Room to Read's Local Language Publishing program - Sabin decided to help his teachers prepare the library. In between labeling and stacking, he stole glances at the books and was captivated by the colors and scenes. He told his teachers, "I can't wait to come to school. There are only a few days left of vacation and then I'll bring all my classmates here to read these books. They will love them too."

>> Learn more about our Reading Room program