Room to Read is a non-profit organization for improving literacy and gender equality in education in the developing world. Headquartered in San Francisco, California, and founded on the belief that "World Change Starts With Educated Children," the organization focuses on working in collaboration with local communities, partner organizations and governments. Room to Read develops literacy skills and the habit of reading among primary school children, and supports girls in completing secondary school with the relevant life skills to succeed in school and beyond.
Room to Read is serving communities in ten countries in Asia and Africa: South Africa, Zambia, Tanzania, Sri Lanka, India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam.
John Wood, founder and board co-chair, launched Room to Read in 1999 after a trek through Nepal where he visited several local schools. He was amazed by the warmth and enthusiasm of the students and teachers, but saddened by the shocking lack of resources. Driven to help, John quit his senior executive position with Microsoft and built a global team to work with rural villages to build sustainable solutions to their education challenges.
Beginning in Nepal, John and his Nepali Co-Founder, Dinesh Shrestha, started by working with rural communities to build schools (School Room) and establish libraries (Reading Room). John and Dinesh quickly recognized the need to expand the scope of work beyond libraries, and wanted to address the fact that many girls in the developing world are overlooked in the educational system due to cultural bias. To that end, in 2000, Room to Read began the Girls' Education program, which targets young girls and provides a long-term commitment to their education.
In 2001, co-founder and CEO Erin Keown Ganju spearheaded Room to Read's expansion into Vietnam. Since then, Room to Read's operations have expanded to include Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Laos, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Zambia. In 2010, Room to Read celebrated its "Year of Tens," marking its ten-year anniversary with the opening of its 10,000th library in Nepal, along with the construction of its 1,000th school and support of its 10,000th girl through the Girls' Education Program.
Room to Read has all-volunteer fundraising chapters in: United States: Aspen Valley, CO; Atlanta, GA; Austin, TX; Boston, MA; Central NJ; Charlotte, NC; Chicago, IL; Cincinnati, OH; Columbus, OH; Dallas, TX; Denver / Boulder, CO; Fort Lauderdale, FL; Greenwich, CT; Houston, TX; Los Angeles, CA; Manchester, NH; Minneapolis / St. Paul, MN; Nashville, TN; New York, NY; Portland, OR; Salt Lake City/Wasatch, UT; San Diego, CA; San Francisco, CA; Seattle, WA; St. Louis, MO; Washington, DC; and Westchester, NY.
Canada: Calgary, AB; Edmonton, AB; Toronto, ON; Montreal, QC; and Vancouver, BC.
Asia: Hong Kong, China; Seoul, South Korea; Tokyo, Japan; Mumbai, India; Singapore.
Middle East: United Arab Emirates
Australasia: Adelaide, Auckland, Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, Perth, Sydney.
Europe: Edinburgh, Scotland; London, England; Brussels, Belgium; Paris, France; Munich, Germany; Rhein-Main, Germany; Amsterdam, The Netherlands; Zurich, Switzerland.
Since its inception in 2000, Room to Read has impacted the lives of over 10 million children in the developing world by:
- 13.6M CHILDREN BENEFITED from Room to Read's programs since 2000.
- 30,337 Schools Benefit from Room to Read programs
- 8M BOOKS CHECKED OUT by children on average each year from our 19,800 school libraries.
- MORE THAN 20.6M CHILDREN’S BOOKS DISTRIBUTED including more than 1,300 original Room to Read titles, donated English- and local language books.
- MORE THAN 10,000 TEACHERS TRAINED on average each year in literacy and reading best practices.
- MORE THAN 56,517 GIRLS SUPPORTED by Room to Read's Girls’ Education Program and 95% of girls who remained in our program advanced to the next grade.
Awards and recognition