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Room to Read

Getting millions to learn: taking a local approach to teaching and learning literacy skills

Sector: Futuremedia
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Room to Read is an inspiring not-for-profit organisation, seeking to build literacy and gender equality, particularly in Africa and Asia. The program employs local authors to write children’s books in the mother tongue.

From their earliest days of providing books and building libraries in Nepal, Room to Read has continued to expand their activities based on the needs of local communities. Through their library program and early cross-national evaluation, they identified that children were not in the habit of reading for pleasure and were not able to read at grade level. Therefore, in 2008, they piloted their reading and writing instruction program activities in India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka. This led to pilots in other countries and eventually a much larger-scale intervention that was incorporated across Room to Read programs. After noticing that girls were dropping out before transitioning to secondary school, Room to Read established its girls’ education program to help girls receive individual material and academic support; increase family, community, and school support for girls to stay in school; and help girls develop key life skills and negotiate important life decisions.

Room to Read’s efforts are focused into two main areas: building literacy and the habit of reading among primary school children, and empowering girls to complete secondary school and succeed beyond that. One of the elements that makes this organization unique, however, is the way it goes about its global outreach. Following a model similar to Amnesty International, Room to Read has become one of the most prominent international education programs with a university following; the organization boasts 50 chapters in 16 countries, with over 11,000 volunteers. Their documentary, Girl Rising, has become well known throughout the United States.

Along with creating a global movement, the more concrete aspects of the Room to Read model include: programs to support girls both financially and emotionally, both in school and after graduation; building new schools and providing training or supplementary materials to teachers; establishing and stocking libraries;and publishing books in the local language. Room to Read was ranked third in educational NGOs by The Global Journal for 2013, and received a four-star rating from Charity Navigator. Among its other accomplishments, the organization has founded over 15,000 libraries and impacted the lives of 7.8 million children.

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