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Decoding Room to Read: Who we are and what we do

November 20, 2023


With education interventions around the world that range from teacher training to children’s books, from national education reform to life skills content that helps adolescent girls succeed, Room to Read is scaling and innovating the way we benefit children daily. Whether you are new to our mission or have been investing in our work for decades, here’s a primer on our mission and award-winning programs.

Through education, Room to Read transforms the lives of millions of children to create a world free from illiteracy and gender inequality.

Here’s how we do it:

Founded in 2000 on the belief that World Change Starts with Educated Children®, Room to Read supports children in communities experiencing deep educational, gender and economic inequities.

Our Literacy Program helps primary school students of all genders develop reading skills and a habit of reading so they can become lifelong learners. 

Our Girls’ Education Program helps adolescent girls overcome social and economic barriers to education so they can complete secondary school and make their own life choices. 


Let's take a closer look:

Identifying the need 

Before implementing any program, Room to Read conducts thorough needs assessments in the communities we serve. This involves understanding the local context, identifying challenges and determining the specific needs of local children.


Forging strong partnerships

Collaboration with local communities, schools, governments, book publishers and other organizations is a key component of our approach. Through local partnerships, Room to Read teams around the world can make room for customization, adapting the core elements of our literacy and gender equality programming to the unique needs of communities and the children and families within them, maximizing their benefit.


Leading locally

Room to Read makes room for local leadership, hiring experts and educators who are from the communities where we work. Our local teams provide direct support to students and Room to Read partner schools through hands-on coaching and mentoring. This trusted local presence enables Room to Read to contextualize programs to better meet the needs of children. 

Did you know? Eighty-seven percent of Room to Read staff are employed in our program countries. Meet Room to Read Country Directors!




Building a foundation for learning

At Room to Read, we know that literacy is the foundation for all future learning. It's not just about reading; it's about making room for a world of possibilities.  
Our Literacy Program makes room for:

Effective literacy instruction  

Our local teams train teachers and librarians in literacy and library best practices, assisting them in developing their skills and knowledge on effective literacy instruction and library management with ongoing support from local literacy coaches.  

We know that how we teach is just as important as what we teach.

Did you know? According to UNESCO, an estimated 44 million teachers are needed around the world to reach universal basic education by 2030, with the greatest deficit in Africa and Asia. In 2022, Room to Read provided robust literacy and library management training to more than 277,000 teachers and librarians across our partner communities, more than any previous year to date. Learn more about our impact and reach.

Vibrant learning spaces  

Room to Read partners with schools to establish libraries that support student learning. And we advocate with governments to make sure every child has access to a child-friendly library filled with developmentally appropriate, diverse and engaging books.  

Our Library Rating System ensures our libraries are high-functioning and sustainable through twice-yearly assessments that help to prioritize schools that need extra support.

Quality reading materials  

Through our unique role as a nonprofit book publisher, Room to Read partners with local publishers, authors and illustrators to create and distribute local language children’s books.

We also create instruction books for every language we work in, including many countries’ minority languages. 

Did you know? Room to Read’s Literacy Program operates successfully in tens of thousands of communities globally because it can be adapted for any population or context. We meet students where they are — whether in the classroom or learning from home. Discover how Room to Read Bangladesh created community-based reading spaces for children during pandemic-related school closures.

Unlocking potential

Girls enrolled in Room to Read’s Girls’ Education Program have the room they need to cultivate essential life skills that help them navigate economic and social barriers blocking their path to education.

By supporting girls to succeed in school, and by partnering with local governments to scale and sustain our model, Room to Read is helping a new generation of educated women to become leaders in their families, communities and the world.  

Room to Read’s Girls’ Education Program makes room for:


Life skills education  

Room to Read’s research-based life skills curriculum follows girls through secondary school, helping them build competency in areas like resilience, leadership, collaboration, critical thinking and decision making. 

Through classes, workshops and extracurricular activities, girls learn how to apply key skills in their daily lives and become better equipped to handle challenges — from gender discrimination and food scarcity to finding time to study. 


Individualized support  

Essential to Room to Read’s Girls’ Education Program are social mobilizers, local women hired as mentors to work one-on-one with girls and their families to ensure that girls stay in school and navigate the challenges of adolescence with the ability to make their own choices. 

Program support is tailored to each girl’s individual need and grade level in addition to local conditions in her community. 

Community engagement  

Social norms, expectations and challenges can significantly affect a girl’s ability to stay in school. Room to Read engages with families and communities by hosting workshops, events, and other activities to raise awareness about the importance of education and the resources that exist to support girls’ learning, especially during crises. 

Material support 

For some families, the cost of a school uniform or safe transportation is prohibitive to sending their daughters to school. Room to Read provides need-based material support for school costs such as tuition fees, school supplies, uniforms and exam preparation services so parents don’t have to make the choice between putting food on the table and investing in education.


Did you know? Room to Read’s gender equality programming supports young people of all genders to build knowledge and skills with which they can create a gender-equal world.  Learn how Room to Read is improving gender equality by reshaping boys’ gender attitudes.




Influencing system reform

Our programs are designed for system-level influence. Through partnerships with national and subnational governments, Room to Read makes room to integrate the core elements of our literacy and gender equality work into teacher training, school counseling and other areas of government school systems.  
Did you know? Room to Read is often the only NGO invited by governments to join advisory committees to inform nationwide curriculum development, gender-aware approaches and programs, and school library standards.


Creating long-term change

Room to Read is not in the business of quick fixes. Our programs are meticulously monitored and evaluated to ensure consistent, lasting benefit that can be sustained by local communities.  
We focus on the data that matters. Measuring life skills or reading habits is not as straightforward as counting books and libraries. We assess progress in a large number of program schools and compare it to progress in comparable government schools. Room to Read is committed to rigorous data collection that provides objective feedback on ways we can improve the effectiveness of our programs. 
Did you know? Children in Room to Read’s Literacy Program read two to three times faster and with greater comprehension than children in comparison schools. A survey of Girls’ Education Program alumnae found that 83 percent were employed or in tertiary education five years after graduation.


You can help Room to Read make room for education and create change for children, communities and the world.

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