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Meet Joshua from Room to Read Tanzania

November 15, 2021

Skill building Content and curriculum Program delivery Tanzania

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to dramatic changes in the lives of children around the world — time spent in the classroom has transformed into more time spent at home, causing notable changes to education.

To illustrate the changing education landscape, the Financial Times recently published a photo essay that profiles two Room to Read students and shares their path to learning during the pandemic. We’d like to introduce you to one of these students, nine-year-old Joshua.

Joshua and his family live in Tanzania, where Room to Read first introduced our Literacy Program in 2012. With support from IMC Trading, Room to Read has since expanded across the country and into the Pwani Region, where Joshua attends school.

Joshua’s school library offers local language children’s books and reading materials published by Room to Read. When lockdowns started in March 2020 and schools officially closed their doors, Joshua’s grandmother — a grade 2 teacher herself — prepared for how she would support her grandson’s schooling while he was at home. To her surprise, Joshua had more resources for remote learning at his disposal than she anticipated. She had not considered Joshua to be an independent reader, and was quite surprised when she found him taking books out of his backpack to read at home. She noted that, prior to school closures, Joshua rarely visited the library or checked out books. But, after two days of at-home learning, his backpack was filled with storybooks. In response to his grandmother’s questions about the books and his seemingly sudden interest in reading, Joshua said,

“My friends always narrate to me different stories they read. The stories were so interesting and some characters were very fun. I wanted to read, too, so I can see the characters and have fun with my friends.” Joshua, a nine-year-old student from Tanzania

While continuing his distance learning, Joshua’s love for reading only grew deeper. He made his way through Room to Read’s publications, with his favorites being the local language books “Jasu na Mpira,” “Katete na Muda, “Jogoo Mbabe” and “Sungura Mkaidi.” Not only did Joshua use his time reading at home to become an independent reader, he also read stories with his family.

Left: “Joshua reads his favorite book, Jasu na Mpira, to his parents. The story follows a child named Jasu who likes balls and makes one of her own.” Right: “Joshua reads a story to Mrs. Emmaculata outside of the library. The book is called Viumbe hai katika Maji. The story narrates the Marine ecosystems and different types of fish species.”


Beyond his independent reading efforts, Joshua remained engaged in other educational opportunities while school closures persisted, such as participating in outdoor Swahili lessons with his teacher and peers (see below).

Once schools in Tanzania reopened, Joshua’s fervor for learning persisted. He is now a regular visitor to the library and the list of titles that he has read grows daily. Though overcrowding in Tanzania classrooms continues to be a challenge, Joshua has demonstrated his commitment to education and personal development. When he’s not at school, Joshua can be found playing soccer with friends, helping his parents and siblings around their home or getting his hands on a new book.

Left: “Emmaculata teaches Swahili outside Joshua’s home.” Right: “Joshua plays football with his friends from Grade 3 and 4. The group uses a locally made ball.”


While the educational landscape has seen many changes over the course of the past two years, students like Joshua around the world have continued to show their resilience and dedication to learning. With the support of schools and programs like Room to Read, the love of reading has flourished far beyond the walls of our libraries. As Joshua said, “Because of Room to Read, me and my friends read fun stories and learn a lot from them. Now I know how to use my time efficiently as narrated in Katete na Muda.”   

Room to Read’s continued partnership with IMC has provided learning resources and libraries in Tanzania, creating tremendous opportunity for children across the country to learn to read – in any circumstance.