The Latest

Room to Read mobilizes capital and resources in urgent response as the World Bank calls COVID-19 pandemic “worst crisis to education and learning in a century”

June 30, 2021

Press releases

San Francisco – June 30, 2021 – In the aftermath of the exacerbated COVID-19 pandemic in countries including India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, and as a new wave of the virus threatens the African continent, a worsening learning crisis that affected 1.6 billion children in 2020 is permanently disrupting the educations of children and heightening risks to young girls. Today, Room to Read announced that it is urgently working to mobilize capital and resources through its 1,600 employees in 17 countries, global and regional board network, and investors around the world. Room to Read is committed to reaching an additional 20 million children and adding 10 new countries to its operations by 2025, with ‘COVID-smart’ programs in literacy and girls’ education.  

“The pandemic has created a deep and enduring wound to the global education system that will chronically and profoundly affect the life outcomes of children and communities everywhere,” said Dr. Geetha Murali, CEO of Room to Read. During a recent virtual benefit series organized by Room to Read Murali stated, “(Room to Read is) here to make sure families who’ve already lost so much don’t lose the one thing they know will give their children a brighter future: an education.” The events, titled “Resilience Rising” raised funds to support 61,000 children through Room to Read’s Education Resilience Fund, recently launched to invest in Room to Read programs that ensure learning continues for children around the globe. 

When school closures happened in 188 countries across the world last year, children were immediately at risk of falling behind in their education. In response, Room to Read pivoted its programs to new modes of delivery, reaching 4.9 million children in 2020– more than double the number of students reached the prior year. Room to Read’s response to COVID-19 disruptions to education included producing unique literacy broadcasts that reached over 123 million households via television and 31.5 million households via radio, delivering physical books and worksheets to over 600,000 children, and reaching nearly 35,000 girls through individual remote mentoring sessions to help them navigate pressures to abandon their education. 

Room to Read’s work is needed now more than ever, as UNICEF reports one-third of the world’s children remain cut off from education due to inaccessibility to remote learning methods and 10 million additional girls are at risk of child marriage over the next decade. The World Bank is calling the COVID-19 pandemic “the worst crisis to education and learning in a century.” 

Earlier this month, Room to Read received a game-changing investment of US$25 million from philanthropists Mackenzie Scott and Dan Jewett.  “This transformational capital comes at a time when it is critical to deploy funds to prevent drop out and learning loss, especially given the tremendous strain to education systems in many countries,” said Murali. “This gift, the single largest in Room to Read’s history, allows us to not only address the immediate education emergency but to invest in scalable approaches across varying contexts to benefit more children’s learning outcomes, more quickly than ever before. We are immensely grateful for this investment, which will shape our capacity to accelerate impact for many years to come.” 

About Room to Read 

Founded in 2000 on the belief that World Change Starts with Educated Children®, Room to Read is creating a world free from illiteracy and gender inequality. We are achieving this goal by helping children in low-income communities develop literacy skills and a habit of reading, and by supporting girls to build skills to succeed in school and negotiate key life decisions. We collaborate with governments and other partner organizations to deliver positive outcomes for children at scale. Room to Read has benefitted more than 23 million children across 20 countries and over 40,700 communities and aims to reach 40 million children by 2025. Learn more at  

# # # 



Jacqueline Pezzillo 

Room to Read 

+1 (415) 839-4401