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World change and word choice go hand in hand: Room to Read’s statement on dignified language

April 13, 2022

At Room to Read, we believe in the power of words to create a more equitable and just world. For this reason, we are making an intentional and thoughtful shift toward increasing dignity and precision in our language, especially when referencing the people and communities we serve. As a valued supporter of our movement to create a world free from illiteracy and gender inequality, we invite you on this journey with us as we communicate in a way that is authentic to our mission and upholds Room to Read’s values. 

Room to Read is committed to dignified language across our worldwide organization and in all our communications. We look forward to a future in which all people – no matter the challenges they face or the circumstance they may currently be in – are recognized for their individuality and personal agency, as well as represented with the inherent respect and dignity they deserve.

Since our founding in 2000, Room to Read has had the privilege of working with more than 32 million children and in a rich diversity of 21 countries and 49,000 communities around the world – from Nepal and Tanzania to Pakistan and the United States. We advocate on behalf of children who face deep educational inequities. As a learning organization, we will strengthen and enhance the language we use to better reference the communities we serve by:  

  • Communicating individual agency and an inherent right to an education. We refer to the children in our programs as students and young learners, not beneficiaries or girl scholars. We believe that education is a right, not a gift. 
  • Describing people in the context of their larger environment and avoiding labels that are inaccurate, vague or force assumptions. We use people-first language, referring to children who cannot read yet or families experiencing poverty, rather than illiterate children or low-income families.  
  • Using words with precise definitions that pave the way for dignity. We support children who are at risk of dropping out of school and girls who are vulnerable to child marriage. We avoid victimizing children by simply describing them as vulnerable or marginalized without additional context. 
  • Avoiding terms that imply violence or create hierarchy across communities. We do not use militaristic language when referring to children and communities, avoiding references such as impacting students or targeting schools. We do not use geographically imprecise terms that reflect bias through defining complex communities by singular perspectives. Room to Read avoids referring to the areas it works in as the developing world or Global South but instead uses greater detail to describe its work in historically low-income countries, as well as in communities facing deep educational and economic inequities.