2021 Annual Report

What Does Education Equal for You?

Remember the feeling of accomplishment when you sounded out words as a child? Or drifting off to sleep to a bedtime story that let you explore faraway places from the comfort and safety of your home? Or the first book that helped you see the world in a new light?

If so, then you know that education equals confidence, curiosity, empathy and community. Education is a great equalizer, putting dreams within reach for those born into the most difficult circumstances.

Room to Read is changing that reality by helping children become lifelong learners who choose their own futures.

In a world where many challenges have yet to be solved — from the climate crisis to the global pandemic to growing economic divides — education can lead to greater understanding, bigger breakthroughs and a more just society.

On an individual level, education equals opportunity, growth and endless possibilities. Education also equals joy, which we see every day when children read books that validate their experiences and provide windows to new worlds.

As you look through these pages, we invite you to consider what education means for you. Chances are that the opportunity to learn has had a profound effect on your life choices. By supporting Room to Read, you open up similar possibilities for children around the world.

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Girl standing outside with book and text that reads "Education = Results"

Two girls outside holding bag together with text "Education = Change"

Students at table doing homework with text "Education = Learning"

Students sitting in a circle with book and text "Education = Community"

Invest in Education

A donation to Room to Read helps us to transform the lives of millions of children across the world through education.


Dear Room to Read Family,

Education means so many things to each of us. For my mother, education was the freedom to avoid an early marriage, train as a nurse and launch a medical career. For my son and daughter, education is a chance to become informed and shape their futures. For Dewmini, a Girls’ Education Program participant in Sri Lanka, education has provided the knowledge and tools to grow an award-winning garden and supply food for her family during one of the most difficult crises in her nation’s history.

For Dewmini and many other young people, education also equals endurance — the ability to persevere through the numerous obstacles that a world in crisis presents. As young women face increasing pressure to drop out of school and marry early due to the financial repercussions of the global pandemic, I’m proud to share that 95 percent of girls enrolled in our Girls’ Education Program returned to the classroom once schools started to reopen in 2021. This is due to our network of social mobilizers, who provided more than 550,000 remote mentoring sessions to girls throughout the year. There are so many extraordinary stories behind these data, and you’ll find a few in the pages that follow.


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Education, and all that education equals, is made possible because of the communities that invest in it — the students, educators, mentors, government partners and community advocates, parents and caregivers who make learning happen. Even in the face of extraordinary challenges, our global community of donors, volunteers, ambassadors and staff work together to weave a network of support that helps secure students’ futures and ensure education endures.

“Working at Microsoft gave me the opportunity to be around so many smart people from all different walks of life. I quickly understood that education was the great leveler, so to deny someone an education because of their gender or where they were born, to limit their opportunity and potential in that way, was something I could not stand for.”

Craig Herb longtime supporter who has committed a legacy gift to Room to Read


Commitment to dignified language

At Room to Read, we believe in the power of words to create a more equitable and just world. For this reason, we updated our language guidelines in 2021, pursuing an intentional and thoughtful shift toward increasing dignity and precision in how we reference the people and communities we serve.

We look forward to a future in which all people — no matter the challenges they face or the circumstance they may currently be in — are recognized for their individuality and personal agency and represented with the inherent respect and dignity they deserve.

Commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, gender equality and environmental sustainability

In our five-year strategic plan, Room to Read committed to strengthening gender equality and diversity, equity and inclusion in our operations, and ensuring appropriate environmental sustain-ability practices are embedded in the organization. Collectively, these organizational commitments are strengthening the quality and sustainability of our programming and our worldwide enterprise.

Our achievements include the following:

  • Gender Equality: We developed a gender- sensitive model for our organization and drafted gender policy recommendations and trainings; collaborated with Equimundo to review our Girls’ Education Program life skills curriculum and identified how to make it more gender- transformative; and designed programmatic offerings for boys, so that they, too, can become advocates for gender equality.
  • Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI): We conducted a participatory organizational DEI assessment, including focus group discussions, interviews with staff across offices and levels and a worldwide staff survey to inform organizational DEI goals; conducted staff workshops and trainings; established a DEI Working Group to serve as an advisory body for our processes; and continued to develop inclusive book collections with stories and images representing the diversity of the children and communities we serve.
  • Environmental Sustainability: As part of our commitment to lead responsibly and prepare children to catalyze transformative world change, we defined three strategic priorities for environmental sustainability:

Design programs that integrate environmental literacy; promote long-term environmental stewardship through programming efforts; and enhance environmental operational practices and improve environmental awareness internally.

We have developed an Environmental Strategy Roadmap and engaged internal and external stakeholders in a materiality assessment which identified our greenhouse gas footprint, climate justice and materials management as key objectives. We developed climate curriculum to integrate into our Girls’ Education Program life skills curriculum, and we launched a climate justice children’s book series. Employees are also enabled to share best practices globally.


Get Involved

At Room to Read, education equals action, innovation, collaboration and so much more. Learn more about how we are creating a world free from illiteracy and gender inequality through education.