Issue 10, February 2011
Message From Our Team

Dear Friends,

From day one, Room to Read became recognized for subscribing to a business model—we believe in scalability, sustainability and results. We’re very proud of our numbers: over 11,200 libraries established, 1,400 schools built, 9.4 million local language children’s books distributed, and more than 10,500 girls participating in our Girls’ Education program. All in all, over five million children now have access to Room to Read projects.

But our story goes well beyond the pie charts on a PowerPoint slide. Behind each number is the compelling story of a child, who, through an unfortunate roll of the dice, had challenges in accessing and attending school, but is now attentively sitting in class and soaking up knowledge. They tell the tale of a brightly painted library, stocked with books and games, where children and community members can discover a world beyond their own. Stories like these are endless, and they all continue to fill me with optimism for the future.

In 2010, in what was a time of financial challenge, our investors helped us raise over $33 million because they know that education is the best investment they can make. The return is huge—a generation of educated children who will in turn educate future generations.

Beyond fundraising, we are especially proud to start seeing the vision of our new literacy focus come to life. Already, our teams in Asia and Africa are busy planning and, in most cases, implementing next steps at advancing literacy skills in primary schools. Reading can open worlds of possibility for a child whose life path would otherwise continue in a cycle of poverty. We intend to funnel our resources and expertise to create a world where every child has the opportunity and materials to read in his or her local language and become a lifelong, independent reader.

As you read this, I and many of my Room to Read colleagues are hopping on and off planes, trains, buses and tuk-tuks, laying the groundwork for 2011 and beyond. We’re in different countries but we all speak the language of literacy and take pride in our role in providing the tools and the skills for the millions of children that are still not able to attend school. The number is daunting, but if we think of the millions of potential life-changing stories that figure represents, we are inspired to keep focused on turning them into successes, one child at a time. We can’t accomplish this without the unwavering confidence our investors feel about our work, and, on behalf of the entire Room to Read team, thank you for continuing to believe in us.

Warm regards,

John Wood
Founder and Board Chair


John Wood, Founder and Board Chair


Help us grow our libraries, and in doing so, you’ll help children grow their imagination and dreams. Room to Read plans to add 1,915 by the end of 2011 and by designating your gift for our Reading Room program, you will help us build a legacy that will provide books and educational resources to children for generations.

Room to Read Bangladesh Publishes First Five Children’s Books

The shelves of Room to Read libraries in Bangladesh have gotten a little more crowded recently. A colorful host of new characters—including a cat in search of a rainbow, an adventurous dragonfly, an awe-inspiring magician, a family of Tailorbirds, and a robin-firefly duo—made their debut in Room to Read Bangladesh’s first five local language children’s book titles.

Room to Read Bangladesh was asked to begin their Local Language Publishing program after an esteemed committee of educational experts reviewed the current Banga-language children’s books and saw a need for more. The Bangladesh team immediately put the wheels in motion to discover and develop emerging authors and artists to produce the much-needed books. After sending out the call for stories, the Bangladesh Local Language Publishing team was inundated with manuscripts. With the assistance of a group of established writers and artists, the team was able to select their top five stories, which were then brought to life at author and artist workshops sponsored by Room to Read. By the end of December, thousands of copies of our first five Bangla-language titles rolled off the presses and were distributed to Room to Read libraries throughout Bangladesh.

Doel O Jonaki (The Magpie-Robin and Firefly): This rhyming early grade storybook tells the tale of friendship between a magpie-robin and a firefly who care for each other on nights when one of them cannot fly.
Fu (Blow): With a blow, a flower becomes a fish, a paper becomes a tree, and fire becomes water. Thus begins this delightful rhyming storybook about a little girl’s fascination with a magician who transforms everything with a single breath.
Namti pakhir tuntuni (The Tailor Bird): In this rhyming story, readers are introduced to a family of Tailorbirds who brave a storm in the safety of mother bird's protection.
Minir Be Ni Aa Sha Ha Ka La (Mini’s Rainbow): Since a rainbow always makes the sky look even more beautiful, Mini elicits the help of violet flowers, an indigo Kingfisher, the blue sky, a mustard field, an orange fruit, and a red hen. To the delight and awe of a black crow and a white heron, together Mini and the others are able to produce a spectacular rainbow.
Patar Gari (The Magical Leaf Car): Join Dragonfly aboard her leaf car on a magical, rhyming adventure to see grandpa. Along the way, Dragonfly encounters different characters, each with something to offer that Dragonfly collects for her grandfather.

Learn more about our Local Language Publishing program »

Sinhala, Tamil and English: Room to Read Sri Lanka Team Commits to Tri-Lingual Education

“Education creates great human beings who can understand each other, which ultimately leads to the societal well-being and happier communities.” This powerful statement was delivered by the Honorable Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, D.M. Jayaratne, at Room to Read Sri Lanka’s Annual Stakeholders Conference held in Colombo in January. Dignitaries and education experts from throughout the country converged to learn more about Room to Read’s commitment to provide education to Sri Lankan children in the three major languages of the country: Sinhala, Tamil and English.

As Room to Read and the Ministry of Education signed a Memorandum of Understanding extending their partnership through 2013, the Honorable Prime Minister said at the close of the conference, “By inviting Room to Read to support children to develop these tri-lingual skills we are assuring the development of a great nation in the world for the future!”

Learn more about our programs in Sri Lanka »

Zambia “Dream Team” Helps to Launch Literacy Pilot

It was an educator’s “dream team”: curriculum developers, master teachers, language experts and university lecturers joining forces to put together a step-by-step plan to launch Zambia’s literacy pilot program.Together, the team worked for several weeks in the Room to Read Zambia office designing lessons for teachers, workbook activities for students and a training program to ensure that teachers would be prepared when classes began in January.The office’s conference room doubled as a production room, and on-hand were illustrators and type-setters who took the content from the team and brought it to life through illustration and design.The resulting workbook, filled with word games and reading exercises, will provide teachers with an engaging tool to keep their students interested in and excited about learning.

The literacy pilot is a grade 1 program that focuses on phonics instruction, oral work and the development of writing skills—three elements that teachers need to spend additional time teaching in the classroom to ensure their students receive comprehensive literacy instruction.

Teacher-training took place the final two weeks of December, with the Room to Read Zambia staff and training team working day and night through the holidays. Teachers were trained on how to implement the literacy program—from the theory of why it is important, to the details of the activities themselves. They also covered how to make some of their own materials such as letter and word cards. Student workbooks were distributed to schools the first week in January, in time for the first day of classroom instruction on January 10, 2011.

Learn more about our literacy pilots »


Zak the Yak has a new home! Visit Zak and his friends and learn about the many ways the budding global citizens in your life can get involved with Room to Read.

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 fundraising goals. For more information about Room to Read events hosted by chapters in your area, we encourage you to regularly visit our events page.

Join us for events scheduled in:

London: February 23
Austin: February 24
Tokyo: February 24
Brisbane: March 1
London: March 1
Nashville: March 1
Sydney: March 4
Edmonton: March 4
Melbourne: March 7
Canberra: March 8
Chicago: March 8
Hong Kong: March 10
Zurich: March 12
Calgary: March 25
Amsterdam: March 27
London: March 29
San Diego: March 29
Singapore: April 7
Aspen: April 9

Learn more about our chapter network »


Tim Koogle Nominated as Co-Chair of Room to Read Board

Last week, the yak bell was ringing loudly in the lobby of Room to Read’s global headquarters in San Francisco, a well-recognized signal that staff should gather quickly to hear a significant announcement. Even Zak the Yak was in the audience as John Wood, Room to Read Founder and Board Chair, announced that Tim Koogle, business leader, venture capitalist and founding CEO of Yahoo!, has been nominated to become co-chairman of Room to Read’s Board of Directors. The election will take place as part of the next meeting of the board in March.

John explained, “I have always said that I do not want to be the leader of an organization, but instead to be one of many leaders of a movement. Having Tim join me as co-chair of the board is a ‘movement moment,’ and it fits perfectly with our strategy of building one of the best leadership teams in the NGO world.” John continued, “Because Tim has an incredible background in operations and is based in the Bay Area, he will be more internally focused. This will allow me even more time to expand my ambassadorial work for the organization around the globe. All of us look forward to working closely with Tim to take Room to Read to the next level, and beyond.”

We asked Tim a few questions about his connection to Room to Read and vision for his new role.

How did you connect with Room to Read?

TK: Two years ago, I happened upon John’s book while perusing a small bookstore in Half Moon Bay, California. I was practically through the first chapter when I felt the store owner giving me the “if you want to read the book, buy it” glare. My wife then spotted me and casually mentioned that she knew John. Fast forward a couple of months, and I was having lunch with John—a surprise set-up by my wife—and walked away knowing that I wanted to get involved.

Why Room to Read?

TK: When I was 15, I saw my older brother, a recent high school graduate, going through angst about his future. One night I asked my dad how I was going to find the answer about my own future, since I’d soon be facing the same big dilemma. My dad, a mechanic, set down his wrench and thoughtfully said, “Figure out what you’re passionate about and make prudent choices, because you have to eat and stay dry. If you do those two things, you’ll be good at what you do and be successful.” I took his words to heart and have always lived my life that way.

I worked my way through undergraduate engineering school as a tractor mechanic. I studied hard, loved what I was studying, did very well academically, and got scholarships as a result, which allowed me to go on to graduate school. I felt that I was given a break and was able to succeed in ways that would not have been possible without it. And I always swore that if I got to a place where I could give back, I would. My wife and I now have a family foundation that is a vehicle for us to give back and have an impact. It is almost entirely focused on helping educate at-risk and extremely under-resourced young people. There are a lot of people in the world who have great aptitude and potential, but absolutely no resources for education, and who are locked into an endless cycle of poverty as a result. We believe that everyone in the world deserves a chance to be literate and to achieve an education. If they got these opportunities, I guarantee that the world would be a better place.

What do you hope to accomplish with Room to Read?

TK: I love working with young, fast changing organizations and sharing what I’ve learned over the years to help them find ways to grow and change the world. Room to Read has already achieved absolutely incredible things. And, at the same time, there is an almost unlimited need still to be filled in the developing world in removing the barriers to both literacy and gender equality. That represents an incredible opportunity to have a positive impact on the world. And, it is one in which I feel incredibly honored to be able to help.

Read the press release announcing Tim’s new role »
learn more about Room to Read’s board of directors ».

Boundaries for Books: Cricket Stars Campaign for Literacy

If you’ve ever wondered what books are on the bookshelves of world class athletes, you’re in luck! As hundreds of millions of sports fan around the world prepare to savor the highlight of the second most popular sport in the world—cricket—star athletes from each of the 14 competing teams have revealed their favorite books as part of an exciting international partnership to support literacy and Room to Read.

The International Cricket Council (ICC) World Cup 2011, February 17-April 2, sets the stage for an innovative and impactful partnership between the ICC and Room to Read. Through various events, matches and media opportunities, some of the cricket world’s heroes will bring the importance of literacy to the forefront and encourage fans to donate money to Room to Read to fund literacy projects. At the World Cup, corporate sponsor Reliance Life Insurance will provide additional support to the campaign through its first-of-its-kind “Boundaries for Books” initiative, a promotion that will provide funding for Room to Read’s work in India each time a boundary is hit.

Room to Read works in several cricket-playing countries participating in the World Cup, including Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka. ICC Chief Executive, Haroon Lorgat, notes, “The ICC is committed to using the popularity of cricket and its great spirit to raise awareness of important social causes. By working with Room to Read at the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011, we hope to highlight the importance of literacy for all.”

Learn more about the partnership:
Read the ICC press release »
Read our Reliance Life Insurance press release »
Visit our special World Cup page »

View the short Room to Read promotional video which will be viewed by millions at the games, on television and online .


Credit Suisse Deepens Its Commitment…Funds Literacy Pilots

In 2005, Credit Suisse heeded the call from Room to Read to support the launch of operations in tsunami-stricken Sri Lanka. They have since become one of Room to Read’s top corporate donors, sponsoring a total of 175 libraries across Asia and Africa and 47 schools in Asia, funding the education of 1,000 girls and sponsoring the publication of five original children’s book titles. Through all of the partnership initiatives, Credit Suisse and Room to Read have impacted over 70,000 children throughout the developing world. In addition, Credit Suisse generously provides free office space to Room to Read’s satellite fundraising staff in London, Hong Kong, Sydney and Tokyo, dramatically reducing our overhead costs and ensuring that more of our donor contributions go directly to the programs.

As Room to Read’s program focus now turns to developing literacy programs in the countries where we have established libraries and schools, Credit Suisse is once again stepping up to provide substantial financial backing of literacy pilots in Laos and Sri Lanka as well as research and development for a literacy pilot in Vietnam which we hope to launch later this year. The literacy pilots complement and build upon our existing work of establishing libraries and publishing local language materials in order to create literate environments. Components of the pilots include teacher training, curriculum and materials development and are being spearheaded by our international literacy team of education experts. Together, these programs will ensure children have the skills and resources they need to become independent readers.

Learn more about our partners »

Story Time: Cambodia Teams Invite Parents to Become the Students

Khom Heoun had never set foot on the school grounds before, because he left for work in the fields in Cambodia’s Siem Reap province well before his daughter headed off to school each morning. The school had always felt like a foreign place, though it was centered in the small village of Svay Chantou and had received a lot of attention since it opened in 1979. For Heoun, school was an opportunity for his daughter to learn and possibly have a better life than that of a poor farmer. It was also a reminder of the fact that he had never learned to read and was struggling to feed his family on a few dollars each day.

But when he received a personal invitation for a special parents’ meeting from the school principal, he decided to set aside his discomfort and attend. The meeting was being hosted by the school and Room to Read and the goal was simple: to bring parents together for a day to talk about what they can do to support their children’s learning at home. Room to Read's book publishing, library and literacy teams worked together in conjunction with district education officials and teachers to encourage parents to attend.

The teachers of Room to Read's grade 1 literacy pilot took the lead at the meeting. They met with the parents of their students in several small groups to talk about the learning needs of their children. And then, Heuon asked the question that was on the minds of many of the parents sitting on the classroom floor, “But how can I help my son and daughter if I don’t read very well?”

The teachers suggested that parents sit with their children while they read, encouraging them and asking questions about the book, about their day in school and about current events in the village. To Heoun it was a revelation to learn that he could help his daughter further her education despite barely being able to read himself. He explains, “Usually the school talks about ‘their’ plan and what ‘they’ are going to do. No one has told me how to support my children before. Now I know how important it is to talk with my daughter every day.”