Published on February 19th, 2015 | by admin

Room to Read: Bringing Literacy and Equality to Children Around the World

Reading is an easy skill to take for granted; after all, you’re reading this right now. However, for millions of people around the world, literacy is little more than a pleasant dream. Today, it is estimated that over 60 million primary school-aged children do not have access to education, meaning they may never learn how to read and write. This disadvantage will have repercussions lasting the rest of their lives, preventing these children from reaching their full potential or experiencing even a basic standard of living.

Based on the belief that every child, regardless of gender or background, has the right to learn, the organization Room to Read was formed in rural Nepal in 1999 after a twist of fate: while backpacking through the country, Microsoft executive John Wood was invited to visit a school in a nearby village. Upon his arrival, Wood saw that the school was dilapidated, while the village’s few books were considered so valuable that they were kept under lock and key to protect them. When the headmaster requested that he send back books, Wood sprang into action, collecting 3,000 books in two months from friends and family members. By 2000, he had quit his job at Microsoft to start Room to Read.

Today, the organization has expanded into an international operation dedicated to improving literacy and gender equality around the world. Room to Read now has programs in Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Laos, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Vietnam and Zambia, where it remains committed to an updated version of their mission: currently, the organization has helped build 1,825 schools and 17,366 libraries, published 1,041 books in local languages, and distributed over 14 million books to children. It has also trained teachers in literacy education and supporting female students, helping to bring important skills and encouragement to communities where they are desperately needed.

Room to Read estimates that it has helped more than 8.8 million children since the organization was founded, and is are currently on track to reach 10 million by the end of 2015. The non-profit reportedly plans to expand to yet more communities and nations, where its members hope to bring education and gender equality to those who need it most.

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