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August 17, 2010 > World-wide literacy for youth

World-wide literacy for youth

By Raji Ramanathan
Photos By courtesy of Room to Read

Seeing the world with every child educated is something most people would view as impossible. Yet for the non-profit organization Room to Read, their vision is a world filled with educated children putting their lives to use. Initiated in 2000, Room to Read began their first program in Nepal, building up several schools and libraries as their first project. While they initially concentrated the majority of their projects in Asia, the organization expanded to help out in South Africa in 2006 and Zambia in 2007. Room to Read also hosts various programs such as building new schools and promoting education for girls in foreign countries.

The organization publishes their own library books for children of various ages, in the local language as well as books in English. They have published over 430 books to date in 22 languages and distributed 7.4 million books across Asia and Africa.

It all started with founder John Wood's trip to Nepal where he found libraries, but none with children's books. He says, "And I asked the headmaster, 'What's the deal? Why is the library empty?' And he answered, 'We are too poor to afford education. And until we have an education, we will always be poor.'"

Wood, deeply affected by what he saw in Nepal, wanted to make a change and bring literacy to the youth in developing Asian nations. Today, he is establishing a library every four hours with 10,000 libraries already in use. In 2009 alone, the organization established six libraries per day and distributed one book every three minutes. So far, around 4.1 million children have been positively impacted.

Not only is Room to Read nurturing the growing youth, but are also giving today's budding authors a chance to publish their works. Room to Read illustrator Mehul Navodit says, "To see your work got published, you feel a lot of confidence -- like what you are doing is actually good."

Room to Read is currently working on a project for Cambodia and hopes for success, especially in their Year of Tens celebration. If you would like more information or to make a donation, visit www.roomtoread.org.

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