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Room to Read Extends COVID-19 Remote Learning Interventions After Reaching 4.9 Million Children in 2020

May 19, 2021

Publication & Reports

The onset of the pandemic – and the resulting education emergency as over a billion children suddenly faced school closures – required our teams around the world to act quickly to find innovative ways to support the children we serve.

New, broad-scale initiatives such as TV and radio programming, the distribution of printed at-home learning materials, and expanded parent outreach allowed us to reach far more children than we ever had in a single year.

In 2020, thanks to the support of our dedicated global community, Room to Read programs benefited a record 4.9 million children – a 94% increase over what was previously our most far-reaching year.

Not only are we adapting our programs and expanding our reach; we have also conducted a thorough analysis to ensure that the ways we are reaching these children are truly making a difference in their lives.

Our global Research, Monitoring & Evaluation team worked with outside technical advisors to develop a framework to assess the reach and benefit of our new program activities. Several factors were vetted, including:

    • Dosage: What is the intensity, duration, and/or frequency of Room to Read programs that any given child experiences?
    • Alignment with our standard approach: How similar is the content and engagement to what a child would experience in our pre-pandemic programming? For example, does a radio read-aloud include elements such as explicit vocabulary reinforcement or comprehension questions that would be part of a read-aloud in a Room to Read library?

Our reach for the year was then conservatively calculated based on the variables unique to each activity and context. Room to Read is a learning organization and we will continue to refine our programs and assessment models over time.


Below, learn more about some of the new program initiatives that have allowed us to reach more children, families and educators.

    • In Bangladesh, we partnered with Duronto TV, a popular Bangladeshi children’s television channel, to jointly produce television productions based on our storybooks. They include storytelling videos and tips for parents to support their children’s reading habits at home. A total of 52 episodes were produced based on 130 books and all of the episodes were telecast and uploaded to the government of Bangladesh’s digital platform `Ghore Boshei Shikha’ or Learning at Home.
    • In Sri Lanka, we’re partnering with regional broadcast services to provide content in both Tamil and Sinhala. The radio programs focus on storytelling for children and literacy tips for parents on how best to support their children’s reading development. Room to Read Sri Lanka is also partnering with the premier education channel Guru TV (with a 1.7 million reach nationwide) to deliver both life skills and reading lessons. The series includes 200 life skills videos, broadcast every weekday, and 60 reading development instruction lessons, broadcast on weekends, all in Sinhala and Tamil languages.
    • The Room to Read India team has created 24 audio stories for interactive voice response (IVR) technology; 24 read-aloud videos for parents and teachers who have smartphones; and 10 library animation videos for teacher capacity building. The team has also distributed Literacy Kits to families, including stationary, a parent handbook and learning activity cards. In each episode of a 16-part television series that will be telecast this year, a Room to Read title will be read aloud, along with vocabulary and comprehension activities, games and questions, followed by an educator’s talk on literacy for teachers and parents.
    • In Nepal, Room to Read successfully broadcast more than 100 radio episodes through 20 different radio stations, reaching more than 302,000 households. More than 300 parents of primary grade children and 350 adolescent girls were interviewed by telephone to assess the radio programming and other forms of remote support. 74 percent of parents said their children generally listen to the Room to Read literacy radio programs, and more than 75 percent of girls interviewed felt that the individual remote mentoring provided by Room to Read was helpful. These results are especially encouraging given challenges in Nepal such as low levels of internet connectivity, limited family support for learning at home and challenging economic circumstances.

Room to Read is pursuing these distance learning techniques in 2021 and beyond. Across many countries in Asia, COVID-19 cases are now spreading at devastating rates, resulting in a deepening of the crisis that began in 2020. As an organization dedicated to education, Room to Read is doing everything we can to ensure that learning continues amid this surge. Stay informed by signing up for our emails.

Thank you to our supporters for making this work possible!