Book Creator Collective

Room to Read’s Book Creator Collective is a network of authors and illustrators around the world who have a shared passion for the power of storytelling to bring diverse experiences to life.

We are honored to partner with these bestselling and world-renowned changemakers to build a more inclusive and just world.

Meet the Collective

Alka Joshi headshot

Born in Jodhpur, Rajasthan, India, Alka has lived in the U.S. since the age of nine. She graduated from Stanford University and worked in the fields of advertising and PR before starting her own marketing consultancy. In 2011, she obtained her MFA in Creative Writing from the California College of Arts in San Francisco, California.

A New York Times bestseller, The Henna Artist is her first novel and is in series development with Miramax TV. Alka shares her writing and publishing process on her YouTube channel.

"Through books, I’ve traveled to distant lands, met people who speak different languages, and celebrated lives different from my own. It’s my heart’s desire for every child in this world to be able to do that. Through Room to Read, we’re working to help millions of people broaden their horizons."

- Alka Joshi

 


Christina Baker Kline headshot

A #1 New York Times bestselling author of eight novels, including The ExilesOrphan Train and A Piece of the World, Christina Baker Kline is published in 40 countries. Her novels have been awarded the New England Prize for Fiction, the Maine Literary Award, and a Barnes & Noble Discover Award, among other accolades, and have been chosen by hundreds of communities, universities and schools as "One Book, One Read" selections.

Her writing has appeared in the New York Times and the New York Times Book Review, the Boston Globe, the San Francisco ChroniclePsychology TodayPoets& Writers, and Salon, among other places. Born in England and raised in the American South and Maine, she lives in New York City and on Mount Desert Island in Maine.

“Books are powerful tools that not only educate but serve as necessary reminders of our shared humanity. Room to Read is creating a world that is brighter and more just as they ensure the next generation of young learners unlock their full potential. I am honored to support world change through educated children as a Room to Read Author Advocate.”

- Christina Baker Kline


After training as a teacher, Deb travelled to Africa where she was harassed by monkeys, caught in a desert sandstorm and thrown in jail…twice! She has since become an internationally published and awarded author of 28 books including her cranky climate change trilogy, Grimsdon, New City and Final Storm. Her family’s survival in WW2 and migration to Australia inspired Teresa A New Australian. TheStupendously Spectacular Spelling Bee and The Most Marvellous Spelling Bee Mystery were inspired by her fantabulous grade 4 teacher, Ms Gray. The Book of Wondrous Possibilitiesis her love letter to booksellers, libraries and librarians and how they can save us when we feel lost. Deb’s won awards for her work but mostly hopes to be as brave as her characters. She’s a proud ambassador for Room to Read. www.deborahabela.com 

"As the daughter of a migrant, who fled to Australia after the devastation of WW2, I have always known the power of education and books to create a life rich in possibilities and opportunities. This is why I am a passionate Author Advocate for Room to Read – kids, who may have otherwise missed out, are offered ways to reach their highest potential. In changing one life, we begin a ripple effect of changing others, and when this is done on a global scale, we are helping make the world a better, fairer place."

-Deborah Abela

 


Esther Wojcicki headshot

Esther Wojcicki is a leading American educator, journalist and mother. A leader in Blending Learning and the integration of technology into education, she is the founder of the Media Arts program at Palo Alto High School, where she built a journalism program from a small group of 20 students in 1984 to one of the largest in the nation including 600 students, five additional journalism teachers, and nine award-winning journalism publications. Wojcicki serves as Vice Chair of Creative Commons and has previously worked as a professional journalist for multiple publications and blogs regularly for The Huffington Post and Thrive Global.

Esther has been intimately involved with Google and GoogleEdu since its inception, where she was one of the leaders in setting up the Google Teacher Academy and remains a guiding force. In 2020, she co-founded Tract.app to empower teenagers and kids ages 8-14. With three Honorary Doctorate Degrees – Palo Alto University (2013), Rhode Island School of Design (2016), and Universidade de Brazilia Centro (2018) –she was named California Teacher of the Year in 2002 by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing; a recipient of the Gold Key by Columbia Scholastic Press Association in recognition of her outstanding devotion to the cause of the school press; a board member of Alliance for Excellent Education in Washington, DC, and on the Board of Newseum in DC; and a has been consultant for the U.S Department of Education, Hewlett Foundation, Carnegie Foundation for Advancement of Teaching, Google, Silicon Valley Education Foundation and Time Magazine Education.

"Room to Read actively engages teachers and parents as essential partners in the fight to keep students’ learning on track. People all over the world have the same goal for our children—to lead a better life—and Room to Read is making education opportunities more equitable so that kids everywhere can learn and develop."

- Esther Wojcicki



Mohsin Zaidi is an award-winning author and speaker. His critically acclaimed memoir, A Dutiful Boy (Penguin, 2020) won the American Lambda Literary Award and the British Polari First Book Prize. It was also named a Guardian, GQ and New Statesman Book of the Year.  

The Guardian describes it as a profound meditation on the power of the human heart to transcend the contradictions of diverse cultures and create something new...utterly compelling...providing a lesson of acceptance for us all, and for the future of our multicultural society. The Times says it is a book that will save lives.  

The first person from his school to go to Oxford University, Mohsin qualified as a lawyer at international firm Linklaters, and then became a criminal barrister at one of the top chambers in England. He also previously worked at a UN War Crimes tribunal in The Hague and as Judicial Assistant to Lord Sumption and Lord Wilson at the UK’s Supreme Court.     

An advocate for LGBT rights, BAME representation and social mobility, Mohsin sat on the board of Stonewall and Pride in London. He is listed by The Financial Times as a top future LGBT leader. A regular commentator on Sky News, he also writes for The New York Times, the Guardian, CNN Style, The i Newspaper, Bustle, Mr Porter and Newsweek. He was also listed in The Lawyer Magazine Hot 100 and Attitude magazine named him a trailblazer changing the world.  

"The famous saying goes, 'The best books contain both windows and mirrors. Windows, so that you can see into different worlds. And mirrors, so that you might see yourself.' Room to Read's mission to bring meaningful stories to children globally is not just about literacy. It is about empowering young people to see what's possible and to really see themselves. Growing up in a poor part of England, my story, and the story of so many like me, was invisible. I'm proud to join Room to Read to help make sure that is not the case for today's children, wherever they are in the world, however rich or poor."

-Mohsin Zaidi


A writer, actor, and child-rights activist, Nandana Dev Sen is the author of six children’s books, translated into more than 15 languages globally. She grew up in India, England, and America, and has starred in over 20 feature films from four continents. Nandana’s first book Kangaroo Kisses was selected by 320 UK schools as a “Book of Excellence,” and her interactive workshops have been loved, in person, by more than 30,000 young people across the world. Nandana has worked with children for over 25 years, promoting the cause of girl safety in India and internationally.

After studying literature at Harvard and filmmaking at USC, Nandana worked as a book editor, a screenwriter, a translator, a script doctor, and as Princess Jasmine in Disneyland. The winner of several Best Actress awards as well as the Last-Girl Champion Award for lifetime achievement in child protection, Nandana has served on the jury of numerous child-rights commissions, global film festivals, and international literary prizes. As an ambassador and advocate, she has represented prominent organizations to fight against child abuse, including UNICEF, RAHI, and the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights.

Nandana loves to find new ways of sharing her stories — from schools in Kolkata, Colombo, New York, Delhi, Dhaka and Tbilisi; to bookstores in India, England, France, America, and China; to hospitals and orphanages in Asia, Africa and Europe. In all her professional work, Nandana has focused on the causes of social equity and progress, and, in particular, the rights of women and children, themes that recur in her books as well as her films.

Nandana is Child Protection Ambassador for Save the Children India, and a Director of the Women’s Refugee Commission in New York.

"I was a painfully shy child, raised by two women poets and, yes, a house full of books, my closest friends. I was lucky, because books, like friends, inspire children to be curious, confident, and kind, encouraging them to dream, and to reach. With its clear-eyed focus on literacy and education, Room to Read unlocks a whole world of wonder and fulfilment for children who are less privileged than I was, bridging gaps in resource and opportunity through the magic touch of books. I’m delighted to join the marvelous team of Room to Read, for every child deserves to play, and to flourish — and Room to Read ensures that she does."

-Nandana Dev Sen


Dr. Nguyen Phan Que Mai headshot

Dr. Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai is the author of eleven books of poetry, short fiction and non-fiction in Vietnamese and English. Her writing in Vietnamese has received the 2010 Poetry of the Year Award from the Hanoi Writers Association, the Capital’s Literature & Arts Award, and First Prize in the Poetry Competition celebrating 1,000 Years of Hanoi. Her debut novel and first book in English, The Mountains Sing, is an international bestseller and has won several international book prizes and awards including the 2021 International Book Awards and the 2020 Lannan Literary Award Fellowship for "a work of exceptional quality" and a "contribution to peace and reconciliation". Her second novel in English, Dust Child, is set in Vietnam and forthcoming with Algonquin Books. She has been named by Forbes Vietnam as one of 20 inspiring women of 2021.

“I am thrilled to work with Room to Read to help enhance equal access of children to books and educational opportunities so that no child will be left behind as we work together to build a more inclusive and just world. In particular, I look forward to supporting girls to pursue their educations and chosen life paths, expanding access to school libraries in high-poverty areas, and fostering a culture of literacy and love for reading within Vietnam.”

- Dr. Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai


Oliver Phommavanh headshot

Oliver Phommavanh loves to make people laugh, whether it’s on the page writing humour for kids or on stage as a stand-up comedian. He also shares his passion for writing with kids, using his experience as a primary school teacher. Oliver has performed at various comedy and writers festivals around Australia and Asia. Oliver’s recent books include What About Thao, Don’t Follow Vee and Natural Born Loser, and he is best known for Thai-riffic!, Con-nerd and The Other Christy. 

“Room to Read’s mission resonated with me immediately, particularly the presence in Asia. As the son of Laotian and Thai parents now living in Australia, I have devoted over a decade of my writing to creating characters that are multi-cultural and through their experiences, emphasize the themes of friendship and tolerance for a generation of young changemakers. Becoming an Author Advocate builds upon many years of supporting Room to Read in Australia and I’m excited to do the same on a global level.” 

- Oliver Phommavanh


Sheetal Sheth headshot

Sheetal Sheth is an acclaimed actress/producer, author and activist. She is known for her provocative performances in a wide range of memorable roles on film and television. She has starred in over 20 feature films and many TV shows and has earned a loyal, international following. Sheetal has become a favorite in the independent film world, having won five best actress awards on the festival circuit. Sheetal began her career at a time when few South Asians were making their living as actors. Despite being told she'd have to change her name to work, her successful career has trail-blazed paths for other women of color across media. Sheetal has represented brands such as CHI hair care and Reebok.  She has delivered talks and keynotes at festivals and charity galas and has had op-eds published on CNN, The Daily Beast, and Thrive Global. She is one of the founders of the non profit, 1001 Diverse Books, she served in President Clinton's AmeriCorps and is currently on the board of SAYA and the advisory board of Equality Now. She is the author of the popular and award winning Anjali children's book series, the first and only in this age group featuring an Indian American girl hero. 

"Seeing a child's world bloom when they learn to read is not just joyous, it's pure magic. Every child deserves equal access to every part of learning, and books are one of the greatest tools in growing hearts and opening minds. As we look to shape a world that is more inclusive, more equitable and ultimately, kinder, I am honored to be a part of Room to Read's network in bringing thoughtful representation and joy to as many children as possible." 

- Sheetal Sheth


Shugri Salh headshot

Shugri Said Salh was born in the Somali desert. In 1992, she immigrated to North America after civil war broke out in her home country. She attended nursing school at Pacific Union College and graduated with honors. Although The Last Nomad is her first book, Salh has been storytelling since she could talk. From her grandmother and the nomadic community in which she was raised, she heard stories and learned of their power to entertain, teach, and transform. When she isn't writing or telling stories, she works as an infusion nurse. She lives in San Diego with her husband and three children. 

“I am a daughter who was intended to be sacrificed in the desert and come from a culture where I had to fight for my place in the world. Every child deserves to be dignified through their inherent right to an education and Room to Read is ensuring that happens.” 

- Shugri Salh


Tristan Bancks headshot

Tristan Bancks tells stories for the page and screen. His books for kids and teens include Two Wolves, The Fall, Detention, the Tom Weekly series, Nit Boy and Ginger Meggs, a 100th anniversary book of brand new short stories based on characters created by his great-great uncle, Jimmy Bancks, in 1921. His books have won and been shortlisted for many awards, including a Children’s Book Council of Australia Honour Book, the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards, ABIA, YABBA, KOALA, NSW Premier’s Literary Awards and Queensland Literary Awards. His new release for July 2022 is Cop & Robber, a crime-comedy for age 10+. 

He is currently working with producers to develop a number of his books for the screen. He’s excited by the future of storytelling and inspiring others to create. You can find out more about Tristan’s books, play games, watch videos, join his Young Writer’s StorySchool and help him try to change the world here at tristanbancks.com 

“I am constantly inspired by the dynamism of Room to Read and the people who support it. Through education and the power of equal opportunity, Room to Read is leading a movement to build a brighter and more just society. As an Author Advocate, I look forward to growing the World Change Challenge, a fundraising campaign I started in 2012, and inspiring students and educators around the world to step up for Room to Read.” 

- Tristan Bancks


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