Issue 6, February 2010
Message From Our Team

Dear Friends:

It’s hard to believe that this year Room to Read celebrates our ten year anniversary!

Last year, knowing we were about to mark year ten, we embarked on a global strategic planning process to chart the roadmap for our second decade and to reflect on our strengths and key learning’s from the past ten years. It was a collaborative and comprehensive process that involved input from our country, regional and global offices, our advisory and board of directors, our donors, and experts in the field of international education.

We are excited to share with you the outcome of that process – our vision for our second decade that focuses our mission and our work in two key areas: literacy and gender equality in education.  In the past ten years, we have built and scaled an organization that is working with thousands of communities across nine countries to provide enhanced learning opportunities for millions of children in Asia and Africa. Our future goal is more ambitious than ever: to enable more than 10 million children in over a dozen developing world countries to maximize their education experiences by 2015.  We’ll accomplish this through evolving our programs to better focus them on developing literacy skills and a habit of reading among primary school children, and supporting girls to complete secondary school with the relevant life skills to succeed in school and beyond.  As we like to say, “this is an evolution, not a revolution” for our already successful programs; we will continue to implement our library, school, and local language books programs as well as support girls’ education but now these programs will have even more defined goals and outcomes. We encourage you to read more about it in Our Vision document.

Room to Read has always believed that “World Change Starts with Educated Children” and that every child has the right to a quality education in order to reach their full potential. We are confident our strategic vision outlines a clear roadmap to continue our progress towards this goal. We are in awe of all that we have achieved together and excited about the future direction for the organization. We hope you are as well and that you will continue on this journey with us.

Onward and Upward,

John Wood & Erin Ganju

Our Roadmap for the Future

We have accomplished so much in the past ten years thanks to the hard work and dedication of our global staff and investors, and now with a new strategic vision, we have charted a way to sustain our strong momentum, and extend our achievements and impact with greater clarity.  We invite you to download Envisioning Our Future to read more about our strategic roadmap.

Room to Read Adds Two New Board Members and One Executive Team Position

It’s a new year with new changes! Room to Read is thrilled to welcome Barclays Capital President Jerry del Missier and Harvard Education Professor Fernando Reimers to our board of directors. Last but not least, we’re excited to report that Dr. Cory Heyman will be joining our management team as strategic advisor.

For those that do not know these gentlemen’s’ distinguished backgrounds, read on to learn more about their many accomplishments:

Jerry del Missier is President of Barclays Capital and Co-Chief Executive of Corporate and Investment Banking and a member of the Barclays Group Executive Committee. Del Missier is Barclays Capital President and Co-Chief Executive of Corporate and Investment Banking.  Jerry joins the Room to Read’s board of directors after serving as a founding member of our U.K. advisory board and with a distinguished background in international finance. Most recently, Jerry was appointed to the Barclays Group Executive Committee at Barclays Capital, where he is responsible for the firm’s global markets businesses, encompassing the trading, sales and research functions globally. Before joining Barclays Capital in 1997, Jerry was the senior managing director of derivatives products for Bankers Trust in London.

Fernando Reimers is Ford Foundation Professor of International Education and Director of International Education Policy at Harvard University.  Like Jerry, Fernando also is joining the Room to Read board after having previously served on its advisory board. Prior to joining the faculty at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Fernando was a senior education specialist at the World Bank. He has extensive experience in the area of international development assistance with the United States Agency for International Development, the World Bank, the Inter American Development Bank and other development organizations. Fernando is best known for his theory of 'Informed Dialogue', an approach to bridge scientific research and education policy through the mapping and mobilization of social networks.

Dr. Cory Heyman is joining the executive team of Room to Read as strategic advisor supporting the organization’s Girls’ Education program and monitoring and evaluation units.  Cory has acted as a close advisor to Room to Read since 2004 when he assisted in developing the organization’s first monitoring and evaluation study.  He has also been an active member of its advisory board since 2008. Cory will be starting full time with Room to Read in March and bringing along his extensive experience in international development and education, having recently served as the vice president and deputy director of the Academy for Educational Development’s Center for Gender Equity. Cory has worked at the nexus of public, private, and non-profit sectors for nearly two decades and brings with him great experience in managing large-scale educational projects in the United States, Latin America, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

This is only the start to what we have in store for Room to Read in 2010.

To read the press release about this announcement, click here.

Room to Read's Board of Directors also includes Hilary Valentine (Chair), Christopher Beer, Craig Bruya, Scott Kapnick, Kim Anstatt Morton, Dambisa Moyo, John Ridding, Muneer A. Satter and John Wood.

Local Language Publishing Program in Nepal Awarded for Contribution to Children’s Literature


During an award ceremony this coming March, the Nepal Society for Children’s Literature will recognize two of Room to Read Nepal’s local language publishing titles as the 2009 Best Children’s Book and Best Illustration. This marks the second country to honor Room to Read’s Local Language Publishing (LLP) program. In 2008, the Laos Ministry of Information and Culture selected two of Room to Read’s LLP books as winners of the 2009 Laos Book Excellence Award – making it the second consecutive year that the Laos program received the distinction.


The Nepal LLP title, Ping Khelda (While Swinging), won Best Children's Book in the category of literature for children aged 4 to 8. Written in short, simple verses, Ping Khelda is about a girl who fell from a swing and how her family members took care of her and the girl's resolve to get back on the swing and play again, more carefully this time.


Luxmaniya and Bachedi is a storybook set in the southern border town of Birjung, Nepal, about the hardship and friendship between two horses that pull carriages in town. Rendered in vibrant colored pencil, and rich in details about the local culture, the book won in the category of Best Illustration.


We're so excited about this news and we’re taking it as a clear indication that Room to Read’s Local Language Publishing program is setting high standards in children's literature in terms of the quality of the books that we continue to produce!


>> Learn more about our Local Language Publishing 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.