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Fostering literacy and gender equality across the globe: updates from Room to Read’s programs

April 26, 2023

Skill building Program delivery Educator training and coaching

As the first quarter of 2023 comes to a close, we are sharing some recent examples of how Room to Read is helping foster literacy and gender equality across the globe.


Bangladesh: Creating storybooks to complement national education curriculum 

In February, Room to Read Bangladesh staff met with the Directorate of Primary Education (DPE) and the National Curriculum and Textbook Board (NCTB) to develop a list of children’s storybook themes that complement the national education curriculum. DPE’s director general, NCTB's chairman and senior officials from both offices shared key insights about new national guidelines for all children’s storybook publishers across Bangladesh.

After selecting the themes, Room to Read organized a writers’ workshop to create a series of new storybooks based on the guidelines. Officials from DPE, NCTB and local authors worked together to develop 10 new manuscripts that cover 10 different themes. The manuscripts have been shared with local illustrators who will transform them into colorful, engaging storybooks for children. Once complete, these books will be added to Room to Read’s classroom libraries across the country for young readers to enjoy. 


Cambodia: Family Reading Day 

Our Literacy Program team in Cambodia recently celebrated National Reading Day by partnering with local primary schools to organize a Family Reading Day, an event which allowed parents and caregivers to spend time with their children and select books to read together. This event helped promote and foster strong reading habits and the joy of reading among children, families and other community members.


India: Life skills comics and videos 

Room to Read India recently led a workshop with Uttar Pradesh’s Department of Education focused on strengthening life skills curriculum to integrate into Room to Read’s Girls’ Education Program across the state. A life skills video series and a gender responsive comic series were reviewed by education experts to evaluate their pedagogical approach, inclusiveness, content relevance, language and age appropriateness. The discussions about life skills education and girls’ education in Uttar Pradesh were insightful for Room to Read’s program team for future planning.


Nepal: Ideal Book Collection workshop

Room to Read Nepal hosted a week-long Ideal Book Collection workshop in March. Every year, this event is organized to review books from various children's book publishers. Selected books are then reprinted and distributed to government-funded schools across Nepal. The workshop also included an introduction to book leveling criteria, a breakdown of the variety of genres found in children's books and classroom book use techniques. 

This year's workshop included government representatives Mr. Pradip Bhttarai, director of the Curriculum Development Center for the Center for Education and Human Resource Development, and the Chief of Nepal’s National Library, Mr. Prem Raj Adhikari. Additionally, Mr. Dhruva Bhattarai, the president of the Nepal chapter of the International Board of Books for Young People, and representatives from the Nepalese Society for Children's Literature were present. 

"There was an overall consensus that this workshop and the knowledge gained from it would serve as the cornerstone for the future development of Nepal's National Children's Book Standard," shared Dhurva Bhattarai.


Laos: New classroom reading corners 

Recently, after Room to Read Laos began to implement our Literacy Program in 90 primary schools across the province of Luang Prabang, school principals and teachers from Grades 1–5 were invited to a training on classroom reading corners. This session covered key details for setting up child-friendly classroom reading corners, managing book registration and categorizing books by age appropriateness. 

New bookshelves, storybooks and stationery were delivered to the participating schools. Teachers and parents rolled their sleeves up to transform classroom corners into beautiful reading nooks for their students. They decorated the walls with handmade paper crafts to make the spaces colorful and inviting, and added posters with key information about reading corner rules, book levels and reading activities. Everyone was excited to see the completed reading corners; teachers proudly showed each other their classroom reading corners, students couldn’t wait to curl up with a good book, and parents visited the schools to admire the bookshelves and decorative crafts.


South Africa: Three new libraries 

Room to Read South Africa celebrated the openings of several new libraries in the first quarter of 2023. Two libraries were opened at primary schools in the province of Limpopo and one at a primary school in the province of Mpumalanga. Because one of the schools did not have enough space in the building to set up a library, Room to Read South Africa approached Breadline Africa to assist with a standalone container library. Breadline Africa, a nonprofit organization that provides educational infrastructure such as classrooms and libraries, helped set up the container library with the financial support of a group of generous donors, the Bloom family. The Bloom family also donated books to the school library that will benefit the school and the local community.


Tanzania: International Women’s Day celebrations

In celebration of International Women’s Day, Room to Read Tanzania partnered with the local government to host awareness events on the importance of gender equality and girls’ education in the Tanga region. Room to Read also used this opportunity to introduce our Girls’ Education Program, which is being implemented across the region this year.  

During her speech, the Tanga Regional Administrative Secretary, Pili Mnyema, pointed out that the Tanga region is among the leading regions with higher cases of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV). “More efforts and investment are required to reduce the high number of SGBV cases,” she said. She also called for more community sensitization towards the issue of SGBV in Tanga, to prevent this from happening to more women and girls.


Vietnam: Animated life skills videos 

Room to Read Vietnam’s animated life skills video series, titled "From Self to All," was officially released in March, bringing accessible life skills curriculum to adolescents across Vietnam in a lively, colorful and engaging format. 

Each of the five videos is about five minutes long and covers a specific life skill topic — you can check out the videos here: Self-awareness; Critical thinking; Emotional management; Communication with parents; Making life goals.

These videos have been shared widely on Room to Read Vietnam’s social media channels along with reflection mini-games for adolescents to try. For educators at Girls’ Education Program schools, these videos will be used as a practical learning tool for life skills classes with program participants. Room to Read Vietnam also plans to partner with local television channels and other NGOs to distribute the videos on a larger scale.