Despite the nearly universal acknowledgement of the benefits of literacy, 250 million children around the world are still not learning basics like reading and writing – relegating them to a lifetime of limited opportunities and unfulfilled dreams. 

In many countries where Room to Read works, over half of grade-two children cannot answer a single reading comprehension question correctly, rendering their time in school wholly unproductive and breaking a vital compact between education systems and the population they are meant to serve.

 

Room to Read Literacy Program Results as of Dec 31, 2016

1,223

Partner Schools Established in 2016

1,223

Partner Schools Established in 2016

19,884

Partner Schools Established - All Years

19,884

Partner Schools Established - All Years

2.4 Million

Books Distributed in 2016

2.4 Million

Books Distributed in 2016

20.6 Million

Books Distributed - All Years

20.6 Million

Books Distributed - All Years

838,000

Children Benefited in 2016

In 2016, 838,000 new children benefited from Room to Read's Literacy Program.

In 2016, 838,000 new children benefited from Room to Read's Literacy Program.

10.7 Million

Children Benefited - All Years

Since its inception, Room to Read's Literacy Programs have benefited 10.7 million children.

Since its inception, Room to Read's Literacy Programs have benefited 10.7 million children.

Room to Read’s Literacy Program breaks down the barriers to learning and strives to ensure that all children develop reading skills and gain a habit of reading that will serve them throughout the rest of their lives.

Our holistic program addresses the many challenges that prevent children from learning by:

  • Supporting educators with teacher training and coaching in literacy instruction and library management
  • Developing and distributing quality reading materials that help children learn and make reading fun
  • Creating supportive learning environments for children by establishing libraries and, where necessary, building or renovating school infrastructure

Cumulative Literacy Program Partner Schools
As of the end of 2016, Room to Read has established 19,884 partner schools.
You can explore the location of these schools in the map below.

Room to Read Accelerator

This year’s report is the first to report not only on our direct implementation activities, but also on our technical assistance work through Room to Read Accelerator. Through Accelerator, we partner with governments, non-profits, and investors to implement elements of our programs, often in geographies where we have not previously worked. These reach numbers show the results of Accelerator projects in Indonesia, Grenada, India, Nepal, and Tanzania. Note that these numbers represent 2016 per-year results as well as cumulative totals.

Room to Read Accelerator Literacy Program Reach

2,732

Partner Schools Established in 2016

2,732

Partner Schools Established in 2016

104,005

Books Distributed in 2016

104,005

Books Distributed in 2016

221,983

Children Benefited in 2016

Room to Read Accelerator allows us to partner with governments, non-profits and investors to quickly scale the impact of our programs and work in geographies where we may have not previously worked.

Room to Read Accelerator allows us to partner with governments, non-profits and investors to quickly scale the impact of our programs and work in geographies where we may have not previously worked.

Improving Reading Skills 

Room to Read supported literacy instruction in 11 languages across nine countries in 2016. In every one of those languages, children participating in the Room to Read Literacy Program have shown statistically significant gains in reading fluency and comprehension as compared to children in other nearby schools.

Globally, by the end of grade two:

  • Children in Room to Read schools were able to read a short passage an average of 2.1 times as fast as children in comparison schools, as measured in words per minute.
  • When asked a number of reading comprehension questions about the passages they had just read, children in Room to Read gave on average 87% more correct answers than children in comparison schools.
  • Lastly, Room to Read schools had on average 62% fewer children receiving “zero scores”—that is, children who were unable to read a single word—than were observed in nearby comparison schools. 

Average Reading Fluency (words per minute) in Grades One and Two
To see results for a specific country and language, use the dropdown menu below.

Country-by-Country Data

  Fluency (words per minute) Comprehension (out of 5) % Zero Scores
Comparison Room to Read Comparison Room to Read Comparison Room to Read
Bangladesh (Bangla) 24 36 0.9 1.6 2% 0%
Cambodia (Khmer) 11 25 0.6 1.3 58% 30%
India (Hindi) 12 32 1.0 2.3 43% 9%
Laos (Lao) 14 39 1.3 3.0 48% 7%
Nepal (Nepali) 10 28 0.5 1.2 35% 7%
South Africa (Sepedi) 26 32 1.7 1.7 22% 16%
South Africa (Tsonga) 16 31 1.5 2.6 43% 16%
Sri Lanka (Sinhala) 32 51 2.2 3.0 5% 0%
Sri Lanka (Tamil) 33 38 2.1 2.6 9% 6%
Zambia (Tonga) 6 16 0.8 1.7 73% 63%
Average Difference 2.1 times as fast 87% more correct answers 62% fewer zero scores

In addition to measuring the progress Room to Read students make as compared to their peers in comparison schools, we also assess the percentage of children who are reaching key fluency benchmarks of 20 and 45 words per minute (for “emerging” and “fluent” readers, respectively).

Fluency Benchmarking in Bangladesh

Globally in 2016, 75% of first graders in Room to Read schools are meeting our emerging reader fluency benchmark, as compared to 67% in 2015 - indicating that our program is doing a better job of moving children from non-readers to emerging readers. Thirty-nine percent of second graders in Room to Read schools are meeting the 45 words per minute benchmark, roughly the same percentage as last year.

We continue to recognize that our benchmarks may not be ideal for all languages because grammar, word length, and writing systems vary from one language to another. In the coming years, we look forward to reporting our progress toward language-specific fluency benchmarks that are currently being developed through an innovative initiative of early grade reading data analysis.

Creating the Habit of Reading

Reading skills are critical, but alone, they are not enough to create a child who loves to read and an adult who uses the benefits of reading throughout their lives. When children truly love reading, when they take their own initiative to seek out books simply because books are interesting or fun, they open endless new possibilities to learn about the world around them. Our Literacy Program helps children develop this habit of reading, reinforcing their newfound reading skills and enabling them to explore books with ease and enthusiasm.

How One Library Changed Habsa's Life

We measure children’s habit of reading by rigorously tracking library book checkout in Room to Read schools. In 2016, the average number of books checked out per child served by our libraries increased by more than 20% to 11.8 books per child—the highest rate in our organizational history. 

Average Books Checked Out per Child
Book checkout is a key indicator of children's habit of reading. To see trends for a specific country, select it from the list below.

This growth in the global average reflects significant increases in checkout rates in nearly every country where we operate. Worldwide, 10.8 million books were checked out across all Room to Read supported libraries in 2016—an average of 2,199 books per library. We are also pleased to report that more than half of the children in each grade checked out at least one book—even first grade students who are just beginning to learn to read. 

Teacher Training

Teachers are the critical element in any successful literacy program, so we invest heavily in professional development and coaching for teachers delivering Room to Read’s Literacy Program. In 2016, we provided professional development and in-school coaching to 8,703 teachers and librarians.

This includes more than 2,159 first- and second-grade teachers who received high-quality training in best practice for literacy instruction. We also trained 6,544 educators on how to manage a library and/or how to conduct activities that encourage students to read independently.

While the literacy teachers are currently fewer in number than the librarians, the training they receive is far more intensive. Each supported literacy teacher received an average of 75 hours of training and each librarian received an average of 30 hours of training.

Teacher & Librarian Training
More received library management training than literacy instruction training, but instruction training is more intensive.

Ultimately, the most important evidence for the quality of our teacher training comes in the form of the positive student outcomes reported above. We also receive highly positive feedback from the teachers themselves. Here’s what some of them had to say: 


Our workbooks helps our learners identify letters, syllables, and words, which really benefits the students.

Vivian Dinah Komah

Grade-one teacher/librarian, Limpopo, South Africa

I am now more open with the students and stepping out of my own comfort zone!

Nguyễn Thị Như Quỳnh

Librarian, Thái Nguyên, Vietnam

After just one year of Room to Read’s program, grade-one students are able to read fluently and without help.

Nasima Begum

Grade-one teacher, Dhaka, Bangladesh


Quality Reading and Instructional Materials

Same Roots, New Growth

To support our Literacy Program, we develop and distribute high-quality materials of varying types. For our literacy instruction component, we produce instructional materials such as teacher guides and student workbooks. These materials align with the scope and sequence of instructional activities that Room to Read has designed for each language, following internationally recognized best practices and helping to supplement gaps that exist in the standard reading and writing curriculum in each country.

Many low-income countries around the world lack a robust children’s book publishing industry, leaving children without access to reading materials in languages they understand to support their literacy development. It has been recognized that globally there is “an inadequate supply of appropriate mother tongue reading book titles due to low awareness of the value of reading books, limited authorship capacity, and lack of content sharing arrangements.” Room to Read has worked for years to address this challenge and has become a leader in the field of children’s local language book development and distribution, publishing 92 new original children’s book titles in 13 languages in 2016 alone. Our books support young readers at all levels.

Forging Partnerships in Jordan

Room to Read also created 77 new adapted titles in 2016. Through this approach, we start with content originally developed for other contexts by Room to Read or others, then work extensively with our global network of authors and illustrators to create locally-adapted text and illustrations that is relevant and engaging for the children in schools we support. This helps us to develop new high-quality, local-language titles quickly and efficiently, so we can keep our libraries stocked with books children love.

We’re also exploring new ways to share our book publishing expertise more widely. One of our most exciting new book publishing initiatives has been a Room to Read Accelerator partnership with a group of publishers in Jordan to develop new locally-relevant titles in Arabic for distribution to both Jordanian and Syrian students in schools and refugee camps. Through this partnership, we have been able to reach entirely new populations of children than those our work has benefited to date, including those living under some of the most challenging circumstances faced by children anywhere.

Learning Environments

The investment we make in professional development and reading materials means that we are able to help schools create high-quality, child-friendly libraries where students can develop a love of reading. Our research has shown that children in schools with Room to Read libraries are significantly more likely to report reading for enjoyment at school and at home than their peers in nearby schools.

Rebuilding in Nepal

The success of our libraries has sparked interest from a range of education stakeholders. In Vietnam, we’ve partnered with government in recent years to build the professional capacity within the school system to establish high-functioning libraries with limited to no support from Room to Read.

In some countries, ensuring adequate learning environments for children requires building or upgrading school infrastructure. The extent of this work has been greatest in Nepal, where we’ve constructed or renovated infrastructure at more than 600 schools since 2000. When a 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck Nepal in April 2015, our school-building expertise was called into action under the most urgent circumstances. With support from Dubai Cares, we are now collecting data on students’ perceptions of the school structures our team has rebuilt, including the new latrines, which can be particularly important in increasing attendance among adolescent girls. We will share the results of this work in next year’s report.

Sharing Best Practices in Grenada

The positive learning outcomes we have consistently seen in our Literacy Program are encouraging. Yet we know there is still much work to be done and many children to reach. We also know that true success lies in the long-term sustainability of quality literacy programs that are fully integrated into country education systems.

To advance our scale and sustainability goals, we are partnering with governments in Grenada and Rwanda to integrate best practices in literacy instruction into national education systems. 

Toward Systemic Change