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Room to Read recognized by Library of Congress with David M. Rubenstein Special Response Award

September 10, 2020

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Room to Read Recognized by Library of Congress with David M. Rubenstein Special Response Award

San Francisco – September 10, 2020 – Room to Read, a global organization transforming the lives of millions of children through education, is one of three recipients of the 2020 David M. Rubenstein Special Response Award of the Library of Congress Literacy Awards Program, it was announced today by Carla Hayden, Librarian of Congress. Room to Read will receive a $50,000 prize and is recognized as a model for other organizations for its responsiveness and outstanding work addressing challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic and recent social unrest.  

“As a learning organization, Room to Read is proud of our ability to pivot nimbly in response to COVID-19 and deliver our education programs in new and effective ways, both online and offline,” said Room to Read CEO Dr. Geetha Murali“We are honored to accept this prestigious recognition on behalf of the millions of students in vulnerable communities who have stayed committed to their learning during COVID-19 school closures and social unrest.” 

Room to Read has met the needs of children and their families by quickly adapting its programs in literacy and girls’ education for remote learning. The organization utilized both online and offline methods — cognizant of the deep digital divide that exists in low-income communities —  harnessing community radio, television, text messaging and mobile phone apps, video chats, interactive voice response (IVR), digitizing high-quality and culturally diverse storybooks appropriate for an international audience, video read-alouds, government-run distance learning platforms, and virtual training sessions for teachers and children’s book creators. By establishing a set of 24 indicators, Room to Read has been able to track implementation and assess the impact of its pivot activities resulting from COVID-19 school closures. 

Room to Read also recently launched its first U.S.-based project earlier this year, the Hands-on-Books program, in partnership with Kappa Alpha Psi, the second oldest Black Greek Letter Fraternity. Hands-on-Books strategically combines Room to Read’s unique expertise and experience in diverse children’s literature with Kappa Alpha Psi’s connections to public schools across the country, giving children access to books that strengthen their Black identity as well as Black role models and mentors in the form of Kappa volunteers.       

“Literacy powers the pursuit of learning, knowledge and opportunity around the world, and now we are challenged to find new ways to teach and learn due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden. “The Library of Congress is proud to work with David Rubenstein in honoring the innovative achievements of these organizations in advancing reading in the United States and worldwide.” 

The Literacy Awards, originated by David M. Rubenstein in 2013, honor organizations doing exemplary, innovative and replicable work and spotlight the great efforts underway to promote literacy and respond to the needs of our time. The Library of Congress is the world’s largest library, offering access to the creative record of the United States — and extensive materials from around the world — both on-site and online. Room to Read received the David M. Rubenstein Prize in 2014 for its measurable contribution to increasing literacy levels and commitment to the advancement of literacy worldwide. 


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 18 million children across 16 countries and 39,000 communities and aims to reach 40 million children by 2025. Learn more at  


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Jacqueline Pezzillo