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Room to Read’S School Libraries Improve Reading Habits

March 09, 2015

More students across Asia and Africa are reading for enjoyment both in school and at home thanks to the presence of a Room to Read library in their schools. These findings are part of a newly released multi-year external evaluation commissioned by the organization to determine their impact on children’s reading habits, attitudes toward reading and reading skills. The School Libraries Cross-National Evaluation, conducted from 2009-2012 with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, found that In India, Laos, Nepal and Sri Lanka, 51 percent of children from schools with a Room to Read library were reading for enjoyment at school—compared to only 29 percent of children from comparison schools without a Room to Read library. And in India, Laos, South Africa and Sri Lanka, 51 percent of children from project schools were reading for enjoyment at home—compared to 33 percent of children from comparison schools.

The evaluation, conducted by external evaluator Juarez & Associates, also found in Nepal and Sri Lanka that Room to Read libraries increased the number of children who thought reading was an interesting activity. In India (Chhattisgarh), Sri Lanka, and Zambia, children from schools with a Room to Read library could read relatively more fluently or with better comprehension two years after libraries were opened than children from comparison schools.

As a data driven organization, Room to Read places great emphasis on monitoring and evaluating program impact through collecting data and using it to both improve programs and to evaluate whether programs are having the intended impact. Room to Read’s school libraries are one component of the organization’s larger Literacy Program. The Literacy Program transforms government primary schools into comprehensive learning environments that enable children to develop the skills and habit of reading and become life-long, independent readers. Room to Read establishes libraries by: (1) providing schools with the resources necessary to establish a child-friendly library; (2) enlisting the community to co-invest to ensure long-term sustainability of that library; (3) building the capacity of teachers and librarians to manage the library and conduct reading activities for students; and (4) providing three years of ongoing monitoring and support to schools.

A full length version of the School Libraries Cross-National Evaluation is available here: www.roomtoread.org/XNE2015

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