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Education remains a constant amidst change for refugee communities across the globe

June 20, 2024

Skill building Content and curriculum Program delivery Bangladesh Lebanon Jordan United States Uganda

Room to Read designs its programs under the guiding principle that every child is entitled to education as a fundamental human right. For too many children, particularly in minority, marginalized and displaced communities, this is not the reality. Children displaced by natural disasters or conflict face significant barriers to quality education, including the challenge of learning in foreign environments and languages. For children living in these realities, a lack of books and lessons tailored to their experiences can prevent them from developing the foundational skills they need for their futures.  

Room to Read is committed to increasing literacy and gender equality within underserved communities where children do not typically have access to relevant and engaging books, and girls face systemic barriers to education. In honor of World Refugee Day on June 20, we’re sharing updates from across the globe about our work to support refugee communities with access to quality education amidst challenging realities that prevent them from developing the crucial skills they need for their futures.

Supporting Rohingya children and host communities in Bangladesh

In response to the influx of more than one million Rohingya refugees into Cox’s Bazar since 2017, Room to Read’s team in Bangladesh has continued to expand our work in the country to implement systems and projects to help both the host and refugee communities access books, teachers and a quality education. 

In partnership with UNICEF, Room to Read assisted with the design of reading assessments, developing supplementary teaching and learning materials and storybooks in both Myanmar and English for Rohingya children in temporary learning centers. This project has reached more than 180,000 children, 2,900 teachers, 300 learning centers in refugee camps and 20 government officials.  

To support girls’ education, Room to Read has implemented our Girls' Education Program in Cox’s Bazar to Grade 6–10 girls in government secondary schools within host communities. Creating an environment for girls to live free of violence, with the skills to exercise choice and consent is essential to their personal fulfillment, safety and ability to become agents of change. 

Distributing books to Afghan refugees

In response to the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in 2021 and the resulting internal displacements and external migration of Afghans to various countries, Room to Read developed and translated a collection of books in both Dari and Pashto, the two majority languages spoken by the Afghan community. These books featured characters and storylines that are representative of the experiences of these refugee communities.  

Room to Read adapted 28 children’s book titles for Afghan children resettling in Pakistan. More than 170,000 books were distributed in Pakistan to ensure children have the benefit of reading material in their own language at the start of the new Pakistan school year. 

In the United States, Room to Read distributed our 12-book Afghan Children’s Book Collection to communities with a large population of immigrant and refugee Afghan children. 52,000 books were distributed to homes, afterschool and summer programs, as well as to educators who work in these communities. 


Supporting refugees in the Middle East

Since 2017, Room to Read has worked with partners in Jordan to support children’s book publishing. Our book publishing team trained writers, illustrators and publishers to develop and distribute 600,000 copies of 20 new storybooks to local Jordanian children within host communities as well as refugee groups. The books were distributed to government primary schools, informal schools, refugee camps and community centers. You can learn more about our work in Jordan here. 

In 2019, Room to Read expanded our work to serve the needs of displaced children across Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon and Syria. In collaboration with more than 25 authors and illustrators, Room to Read developed 12 high-quality children’s books in Arabic. The books were then distributed across these four Middle Eastern countries. 

In 2022, Room to Read implemented a two-year project in Lebanon that will help local nonprofits improve children’s literacy skills in non-formal education settings, supporting the transition of out-of-school children into the formal school system by strengthening children’s literacy skills and building a habit of reading. As of 2023, Room to Read had delivered 30,000 books to more than 1,000 centers, benefiting an estimated 54,152 students. An additional 9,000 books were distributed through national partners. 

Publishing local language books in Uganda

Since 2021, Room to Read has collaborated with the Reading Association of Uganda (RAU) to strengthen the local book publishing ecosystem, benefitting more than 30,000 children, including refugee children, through the distribution of 150,973 copies of books to young learners beyond Room to Read's operating program institutions.

In 2022, Room to Read facilitated writers’ and illustrators’ workshops, bringing together teachers, librarians, government representatives, refugees and other local talents to create original stories in Luganda and Ruyankore-Rukiga languages. A total of 34 original children’s books were developed by local contributors, of which 12 (six in Luganda and six in Runyankore-Rukiga) are being submitted for certification from the National Curriculum Development Centre (NCDC) in 2023.


Our work with refugee communities is underway but not over yet. We need your support to continue this essential work and ensure every child — no matter the circumstances — can access quality education. Show your support today.