Room to Read | 2021 Annual Report

What does education equal for you?

2021 Annual Report

What does education equal for you?

Remember the feeling of accomplishment when you sounded out words as a child? Or drifting off to sleep to a bedtime story that let you explore faraway places from the comfort and safety of your home? Or the first book that helped you see the world in a new light?

If so, then you know that education equals confidence, curiosity, empathy and community.

Education is a great equalizer, putting dreams within reach for those born into the most difficult circumstances.

Yet, more than 773 million adults — two-thirds of them women — still lack basic reading and writing skills.

Room to Read is changing that reality by helping children become lifelong learners who choose their own futures.

In a world where many challenges have yet to be solved — from the climate crisis to the global pandemic to growing economic divides — education can lead to greater understanding, bigger breakthroughs and a more just society. On an individual level, education equals opportunity, growth and endless possibilities. Education also equals joy, which we see every day when children read books that validate their experiences and provide windows to new worlds. As you look through these pages, we invite you to consider what education means for you. Chances are that the opportunity to learn has had a profound effect on your life choices. By supporting Room to Read, you open up similar possibilities for children around the world.

EDUCATION = RESULTS Children Benefited EDUCATION = LEARNING Literacy Program Updates EDUCATION = CHANGE Girls’ Education Program Updates EDUCATION = COMMUNITY Partner Highlights




















The global educational landscape continued to shift in 2021 and we shifted with it, maintaining flexibility in our programs and evaluation methodologies to meet the evolving needs of children and the education systems that support them. We made exciting new advancements in each of our countries of operation, benefiting more than 8.8 million additional children in 2021.



















2021 Global Results

2021 was another record year for Room to Read. We are proud to have benefited more than 8 million children in 2021, making our goal of benefiting 40 million children by 2025 well within our sights.



Countries Benefited

32M+ Cumulative

Literacy Program

Supporting children to become independent readers and lifelong learners.

STUDENTS BENEFITED 8,361,672 New 28,435,816 Cumulative

LITERACY PROGRAM SCHOOLS 3,034 New 51,043 Cumulative TOTAL BOOKS DISTRIBUTED 4,087,696 New 36,544,196 Cumulative




4,152 Cumulative Girls’ Education Program

1,978 Cumulative

STUDENTS BENEFITED 429,655 New 3,325,607 Cumulative


Ensuring that girls build the skills to succeed in school and make key life decisions.


Delivering on our commitments

COMMITMENT TO DIGNIFIED LANGUAGE At Room to Read, we believe in the power of words to create a more equitable and just world. For this reason, we updated our language guidelines in 2021, pursuing an intentional and thoughtful shift toward increasing dignity and precision in how we reference the people and communities we serve. 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 and represented with the inherent respect and dignity they deserve. COMMITMENT TO DIVERSITY, EQUITY AND INCLUSION, GENDER EQUALITY AND ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY In our five-year strategic plan, Room to Read

committed to strengthening gender equality and diversity, equity and inclusion in our operations, and ensuring appropriate environmental sustain- ability practices are embedded in the organization. Collectively, these organizational commitments are strengthening the quality and sustainability of our programming and our worldwide enterprise. Our achievements include the following: • Gender Equality: We developed a gender- sensitive model for our organization and drafted gender policy recommendations and trainings; collaborated with Equimundo to review our Girls’ Education Program life skills curriculum and identified how to make it more gender- transformative; and designed programmatic offerings for boys, so that they, too, can become advocates for gender equality.


• Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI): We conducted a participatory organizational DEI assessment, including focus group discussions, interviews with staff across offices and levels and a worldwide staff survey to inform organiza- tional DEI goals; conducted staff workshops and trainings; established a DEI Working Group to serve as an advisory body for our processes; and continued to develop inclusive book collections with stories and images representing the diversity of the children and communities we serve. • Environmental Sustainability: As part of our commitment to lead responsibly and prepare children to catalyze transformative world change, we defined three strategic priorities for environmental sustainability:

Design programs that integrate environmental literacy; promote long-term environmental stewardship through programming efforts; and enhance environmental operational practices and improve environmental awareness internally. We have developed an Environmental Strategy Roadmap and engaged internal and external stakeholders in a materiality assessment which identified our greenhouse gas footprint, climate justice and materials management as key objectives. We developed climate curriculum to integrate into our Girls’ Education Program life skills curriculum, and we launched a climate justice children’s book series. Employees are also enabled to share best practices globally.



Education means so many things to each of us. For my mother, education was the freedom to avoid an early marriage, train as a nurse and launch a medical career. For my son and daughter, education is a chance to become informed and shape their futures. For Dewmini, a Girls’ Education Program participant in Sri Lanka, education has provided the knowledge and tools to grow an award-winning garden and supply food for her family during one of the most difficult crises in her nation’s history.

For Dewmini and many other young people, education also equals endurance — the ability to persevere through the numerous obstacles that a world in crisis presents. As young women face increasing pressure to drop out of school and marry early due to the financial repercussions of the global pandemic, I’m proud to share that 95 percent of girls enrolled in our Girls’ Education Program returned to the classroom once schools started to reopen in 2021. This is due to our network of social mobilizers, who provided more than 550,000 remote mentoring sessions to girls throughout the year. There are so many extraordinary stories behind these data, and you’ll find a few in the pages that follow. Another achievement in 2021 was the distribution of 4 million books — an all-time annual high for Room to Read. While we took advantage of every type of local infrastructure available to us (camels, boats, bikes, trucks, phones and computers) to get high-quality materials to children wherever they were, we simultaneously made our programs stronger by facilitating and fine-tuning home learning. We also continued our focus on scale, which resulted in government partners replicating our models and the integration of our program elements into education systems around the world. Broadening the reach and depth of our programs is essential, as the magnitude of the education crisis comes into focus. The World Bank has estimated that 70 percent of 10-year-olds in low- and middle-income countries cannot read a simple story, an increase from 57 percent pre-pandemic. The long-term implications of this kind of learning loss show global gross domestic product potentially dropping by 0.9 percent, or an annual loss of US$1.6 trillion, by 2040. Room to Read has the solution to avoid this giant step backward and deliver on children’s fundamental right to education. Because of the generosity and unwavering support of our exceptional board members, chapter volunteers, investors, partners and staff, we benefited more than 8.8 million children in 2021 and have emerged even better equipped to meet the evolving needs of children and families. Tâm, a Girls’ Education Program alumna, refers to our staff as “sowers” because we sow “the seeds of hope and dreams that foster the minds” of young people. Together, we must sow a bumper crop of “seeds” to create the equitable, peaceful and prosperous world we want for the next generation.

Dr. Geetha Murali, CEO



There is nothing more vital to an individual’s success and fulfillment than education. That’s what first attracted me to Room to Read many years ago, and it’s what continues to fuel my passion today. My faith in this organization has only grown as I’ve seen it repeatedly rise to any challenge and far exceed expectations, whether it’s persevering through COVID-19 and the related aftershocks or delivering on a plan to benefit 20 million children in five years — doubling the impact of the 20 years prior.

Our donors care deeply about how their money is invested, and Room to Read displays the discipline one would typically expect in a world-class for-profit business in pursuit of a clear, compelling and attainable mission: creating a world free of illiteracy and gender inequality. The results that Room to Read achieves are indisputable: Children in Room to Read schools read faster and with greater comprehension than children in comparison schools. Likewise, a strong majority of participants in Room to Read’s Girls’ Education Program stay in school and go on to land good jobs or engage in tertiary education. We are living in a world with many challenges and no easy answers, but education is a fundamentally solvable problem, and Room to Read is uniquely equipped to solve it. Room to Read knows how to build exceptionally strong local teams who are a part of the local community and deliver proven programs at scale. I’ve seen this work in action many times over the years, most recently when my family visited a Room to Read school and library in South Africa. Nothing beats spending time in a classroom surrounded by smiling children as they proudly display their literacy skills. Watching students’ faces light up as they sound out a new word, with the support of an encouraging teacher, is an unforgettable experience. These “lightbulb” moments are especially meaningful to me because I know how challenging learning can be. It was only through the dedication of my teachers and support of my family that I was able to overcome dyslexia and learn to read. I know from experience that just a single teacher believing in you can change your life’s trajectory. As Global Board Chair, I look forward to helping more young people gain access to life-changing teachers, encouraging mentors and high-quality learning materials by supporting Room to Read — particularly as we work in new regions, like the Middle East, as well as in emergency settings and refugee communities for the first time. In my life, there have been many professional successes, but nothing makes me prouder than my work with Room to Read. I am humbled and grateful to work with our extensive network of brilliant and dedicated supporters as we help create brighter futures for millions of children every year, and, in doing so, create brighter futures for us all.

Sincerely yours,

Yusuf Alireza, Room to Read Global Board Chair





At Room to Read, we know that literacy is the foundation for all future learning.

Our literacy work supports children to become independent readers and lifelong learners. Through our Literacy Program, we train and coach teachers and librarians, create quality storybooks and other educational materials and establish libraries filled with children’s books in local languages. We partner with local communities, governments and publishing industries to test and implement innovative models that help children succeed in school and develop a love of reading. And we integrate our literacy practices into public education systems to achieve literacy outcomes at scale.


2021 Literacy Program by the Numbers

174 new Room to Read programs broadcast via television

1,225 new Room to Read programs broadcast via radio

50,501 hours of virtual training for teachers, authors and illustrators

387,186 children received hard copy materials like books and worksheets

24,632,088 direct messages sent to advance Literacy Program objectives



Room to Read is a learning organization, and we’ve learned a lot over the course of the pandemic. In 2021 we built on our knowledge from 2020, further adapting our programs to meet the changing needs of the communities we serve and refining our delivery methods to benefit more children. As COVID-19 continued to disrupt school systems around the globe, we bolstered our distance learning strategies. We developed additional TV and radio programming, added more book titles in more languages to our digital library, Literacy Cloud, and enhanced our approach to both virtual and, as schools reopened, in-person teacher trainings. We also found increasingly innovative ways to distribute more hard copy materials, including storybooks and educational worksheets. These initiatives helped to keep children engaged in learning while at home and prepared them to return to the classroom when schools reopened.

Explore just a few highlights of the creative ways we kept children learning throughout 2021:

DELIVERING BOOKS BY BOATS, TRAINS AND CAMELS IN INDIA We initiated a dynamic book distribution campaign in 2021 with “India Gets Reading at Home.” Mobile libraries were established on boats, on bikes — even on the backs of camels! These engaging, playful and highly effective transportation methods delivered captivating storybooks in local languages to children across nine different states to ensure that learning continued — no matter a child’s location — during pandemic- related school closures.

CAPTIVATING TELEVISION VIEWERS IN SRI LANKA In Sri Lanka, we partnered with the country’s premier education channel, Guru TV, in March of 2021 to deliver reading lessons and life skills lessons — including segments on financial literacy — in both Tamil and Sinhala to an estimated 1.7 million viewers across the country. Our life skills episodes were broadcast throughout the week, and our reading lessons were shown on a continuous loop on weekends to ensure the content benefited as many children as possible.



Early in 2021, our literacy team partnered with a print newspaper in the province of KwaZulu-Natal to print weekly reading activities and decodable stories to help close the digital divide affecting many children from historically low-income and under- resourced communities during school closures. The stories, written with graphemes, the letters or letter combinations that students learn in early literacy development, provided young learners with developmentally appropriate reading experiences. These experiences, in turn, helped early readers build phonics skills, fluency and confidence.

EXPANDING ACCESS TO TRAINING IN BANGLADESH In collaboration with local government partners, our team in Bangladesh launched a virtual library management training program on the government’s “Aspire to Innovate” website, which offers innovative digital content to help transform the country’s public sector. Made public late in 2021, the training program can be accessed online free of charge, anytime, anywhere, enabling thousands of teachers, librarians and other educators from across Bangladesh to access content focused on library management and early grade literacy development.

ADDING MORE BOOKS TO OUR DIGITAL LIBRARY We continued to add to the contents of Literacy Cloud in 2021 to include more of our hard copy titles and make our books available in more local languages. Literacy Cloud has more than 2,128 digital titles in 32 languages.


Our team in Nepal first launched “Radio School” during the sweeping school closures of 2020, delivering early grade literacy lessons to the homes of young learners across the country over the airwaves. Radio remains the most commonly available and accessed technology across the world, and our radio programming is especially important in historically low-income regions, where children often lack access to internet and television at home. By March of 2021, we had successfully broadcast more than 100 literacy-focused episodes through 20 different radio stations, benefiting more than 302,000 households across Nepal. Offering “Radio School” in Nepal



Room to Read distributed more than 4 million books in 2021, our largest annual distribution to date. This brings our cumulative total to more than 36 million books distributed over the past 22 years. Despite ongoing disruptions to book distribution channels, our innovative literacy initiatives and our strong partnerships with local governments and book publishers enabled us to continue to bring more books to more children.

Read through highlights of just a few of the innovative initiatives that enabled us to distribute more books to more children in 2021:


In 2017, Room to Read began working in the Middle East. With support from our partner Dubai Cares, we built the capacity of local partners, authors and illustrators in Jordan to develop high-quality storybooks in Arabic, distributing more than 600,000 copies of 20 new books across Jordanian government primary schools, informal schools, refugee camps and community centers. In collaboration with Sesame Workshop and the International Rescue Committee, we developed an additional 12 storybooks, which were distributed to children across Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq. In 2021, we launched an exploration into a project in Lebanon to provide technical assistance to local nonprofit organizations that are helping to improve children’s literacy skills in non-formal education settings. Our literacy team is now supporting the development of effective literacy programming and the distribution of Arabic storybooks to refugee camps and under-resourced public schools across the country. We look forward to adapting this approach in other Middle Eastern and North African countries in the years ahead.



In 2020, our literacy team set out to identify gaps in the Ugandan book supply chain and strategize ways to close those gaps. We then partnered with the Reading Association of Uganda early in 2021, and together, we distributed 35,000 Room to Read storybooks, translated into Luganda, to primary schools across the country. While the initial distribution of translated titles marked an important first step in closing gaps in available and accessible children’s books in Uganda, we know that young learners need stories developed in their own countries and in their local languages — stories that reflect their own cultures, histories and lived experiences — to develop a true lifelong love and habit of reading. To that end, Room to Read is currently collaborating with Ugandan authors, illustrators, book creators and publishers to develop our first ever collection of original storybooks in the country.


Over the last two years, Room to Read has developed and distributed home library packages to students learning at home across Cambodia and Laos. The packages include local language storybooks, educational worksheets and instructional guides for parents and caregivers supporting students’ literacy development at home. Since we launched the initiative in 2020, our teams in Cambodia and Laos have distributed more than 1.4 million books to young learners across the region.

Initial data from Room to Read’s evaluation of the effectiveness of these packages revealed that 95 percent of families included in the study used the home library packages with their children at least once a week during school closures, and that most children frequently read the storybooks independently. Data also showed that 80 percent of students between Grades 3 and 6 read storybooks aloud to their family members, and many also shared their storybooks with friends. This extensive sharing points to an increasingly active reading culture in these communities.


In 2021, we released research findings that underscored the fact that education inequities persist for underserved children in the United States who do not have access to children’s books that reflect their diverse identities and experiences. The study, conducted by independent researchers, was funded by Tatcha, a global skincare brand that has invested in Room to Read’s programs since 2014. The research identified regions of the U.S. where investments in education equality would have the greatest benefit through Room to Read’s unique expertise in literacy and book publishing for diverse and historically under- resourced communities.




A long, broad desk sits on the front porch of Pratik’s family’s house. Colorful books hang in orderly rows on the wall above the desk, just an arm’s reach away. Pratik’s notebooks and worksheets are stacked neatly below them, next to a radio — through which he listens to Room to Read literacy programming. This is Pratik’s home library, a space devoted to learning and imagination, a space of comfort and curiosity where Pratik, a 9-year-old student from Nepal, can focus on his studies outside of the classroom.

Meet Pratik from Nepal

Like many children in his community, Pratik found it difficult to continue his education during 2021 school closures. Because he is a first-generation student, members of his family were often unable to help him with his schoolwork. And, because the home lacked internet access and other technology needed for most remote instruction, Pratik was unable to attend online classes, leaving him on his own to navigate a complex and confusing educational landscape. In response to the accelerating global educational crisis, our team distributed home learning packages to students across Nepal. More than 6,000 children received a package containing worksheets with guided lessons, stationery and pencils, children’s storybooks and coloring books. Our staff also oriented parents on how to use the worksheets, and how to create an effective learning environment and study schedule. Many children, Pratik among them, were eager to find a suitable location in their homes to set up their own reading area. “I’d always wanted a storybook corner in my house,” Pratik reflected, “and the learning-from-home kit came with enough books to start a little library for myself. Before settling on the porch area, my sister and I looked around the house for a well-lit spot. It has a wide white wall where I can hang my books, and because my family gathers here frequently to talk, I can also read a few of the stories to them.”



One of our strategic priorities at Room to Read is to design our programs to have system-level influence in the communities where we work. Through partnerships with national and subnational governments, we can integrate and mainstream core elements of our literacy and gender equality work into teacher training, school counseling and other areas of government school systems, thereby creating long-term systemic change.

Here are a few highlights of initiatives that enabled us to scale our work in 2021:


We first began a long-term national library partnership with the Vietnamese Ministry of Education and Training (MOET) in 2018 with the goal of incorporating our library model into Vietnam’s national library policies. The MOET, recognizing the effectiveness of our model, has since invested heavily in the rapid scale-up of the approach. From the formation of our partnership in 2018 to 2021, the MOET implemented 1,320 expansion libraries — libraries that use Room to Read’s design and programming but are completely led, funded and implemented by government partners. Room to Read is now working to have its library model integrated into the new national library standards and rolled out nationwide.


In preparation for Tanzania’s 2021 national curriculum review, our team organized two workshops with members of the Tanzania Institute of Education to advance the integration of Room to Read’s literacy development model into lower grade curriculum and the national syllabus. Room to Read staff led participants through a collaborative process to determine the teaching order for government textbooks and helped to identify gaps in the country’s curriculum. By supporting and enhancing national education systems, we are positioned to benefit more children across Tanzania.


Two years ago, Room to Read formed a national library partnership with the Cambodian Ministry of Education, Youth, and Sports. The goal of the partnership was simple: promote quality library programming in primary schools across the country.

By the end of 2021, our team had successfully led a government working group to create a national library package based directly on our library model. The package included guidelines on library management, a suite of library activities, a guide to categorizing books based on the difficulty of the text — otherwise known as book leveling — and suggestions for enhancing community engagement around the initiative.





We know that education equals many things.

Education equals opportunity — the opportunity to dream, to realize passions, to make choices.

Education also equals connection — connection to the people who nurture our confidence and encourage our success, to the communities that support our growth. And for many, including students enrolled in our Girls’ Education Program, education simply equals change.


2021 Girls’ Education Program by the Numbers

205 new Room to Read programs broadcast via television

494 new Room to Read programs broadcast via radio

11,604 students received hard copy materials like books and worksheets

31,322 girls received individual remote mentoring

285,242 individual remote mentoring sessions delivered

2,974,514 direct messages sent in support of Girls’ Education Program objectives


Room to Read’s Girls’ Education Program prepares students to make positive change — in their own lives, in their communities and in the world. Through life skills classes, mentorship and peer support, as well as family and community engagement, our program ensures that girls have the tools they need to succeed in school and make key life decisions. Our work goes further by supporting young people of all genders to build knowledge and skills with which they can create a gender-equal world. And we help governments deliver similar programs through their own education systems, creating change at scale.


The varying contexts in which girls have been educated during the COVID-19 pandemic — in school and out of school, in stable and in emergency settings — have prompted us to diversify our program delivery models. We have been nimble in tailoring our content to the channels that are most accessible to girls in each community, whether radio and television broadcasts, books or internet-based platforms and messaging apps. By employing all available tools, we have provided varying ports of entry for students of all genders to acquire the skills they need to effectively navigate day-to-day challenges, advocate for themselves and confront limiting gender norms in their communities and beyond.

Room to Read’s life skills curriculum has long supported girls as they chart successful life paths and change their communities and the world for the better. Our program helps girls develop critical skills like self-confidence, perseverance, and communication. In addition, curriculum focused on themes like financial education and climate justice helps girls gain the knowledge, support and resolve they need to pursue their dreams.

“I am grateful that there is an organization like Room to Read in our country to encourage people like me who have not always seen the benefit in educating their daughters. I heartily thank Room to Read for supporting my daughters’ education and hope that more parents will become aware of the value of girls’ education as I have.” – Sanwar, a father of Girls’ Education Program participants in India


Discover just a few of the tools we utilized in 2021 to deliver life skills lessons to millions of students:

STREAMING LIFE SKILLS IN VIETNAM In Vietnam, our team introduced a series of life skills videos for girls in Grades 7 and 8 that kept them learning and connected to their teachers and classmates while schools were closed. Videos covered topics from critical thinking to reproductive health and were available for streaming on YouTube. Life skills content was enhanced by virtual, teacher-led discussions that provided students with opportunities to dive more deeply into topics like empathy and creative problem solving and strengthen their connection to their educational community during a time when girls around the world faced increased isolation. TAKING TO THE AIRWAVES IN NEPAL Our Nepal team created and released more than 100 unique radio episodes in 2021 to provide life skills lessons to students studying at home and to field questions from girls and their families on topics of particular importance during the pandemic — such as managing emotions, creating healthy relationships, delaying marriage, studying at home and setting goals. This robust radio programming enabled stand-alone learning, benefiting girls who did not have access to television or the internet during school closures. MIXED MODALITY APPROACHES IN INDIA Through regular virtual mentoring sessions, Room to Read mentors, known as social mobilizers, discovered that many students enrolled in Room to Read’s Girls’ Education Program in India required additional support materials to keep up with at-home learning. In response, our team compiled physical learning kits filled with items that met the unique needs of girls across our partner communities — school supplies like geometry boxes, note pads, pencils and pens, sharpeners and rulers; reference materials including practice exams, coursebooks and life skills worksheets; and pandemic-specific health supplies like masks and hand sanitizer.


CONNECTING VIRTUALLY IN CAMBODIA Room to Read mentors in Cambodia held individual remote mentoring sessions with more than 6,400 girls in our Girls’ Education Program in 2021, ensuring they received the support they needed to stay engaged in their education during school closures and safely return to the classroom when schools reopened. Mentors also conducted virtual life skills lessons for secondary school students, which focused heavily on pressing challenges like gender-based violence, COVID-19 safety and early marriage. Lessons were conducted over Google Meet, recorded and shared via digital messaging apps so that all students could benefit from the discussions, even without access to the internet. TRAVELING VILLAGE BY VILLAGE IN LAOS To keep Girls’ Education Program students engaged in our life skills curriculum during COVID-19 school closures, educators in Laos collaborated with local government partners to initiate mobile life skills sessions, delivered village by village. Teachers and mentors traveled across 80 villages in the span of three months to safely facilitate in-person discussions with Girls’ Education Program participants and their families. Students received three in-person lessons, each helping to equip them with the tools needed to set goals, create effective study spaces and habits while learning at home, advocate for themselves, manage difficult emotions and remain focused on their education. LIFE SKILLS FOR EQUALITY We know that achieving gender equality is a pursuit that everyone, not just women and girls, must work toward together. We have, therefore, been working with Equimundo and local grassroots organization Gender and Development for Cambodia to develop and deliver life skills curriculum for boys through Room to Read’s Life Skills for Equality pilot project. The curriculum is specifically designed to help boys examine gender norms and attitudes that perpetuate inequality and is the result of extensive research and a thorough needs’ assessment process. In 2021, our team provided training to teachers and other program facilitators so that the curriculum can be delivered at scale.




When Chamodi enrolled in Room to Read’s Girls’ Education Program in 2012, she didn’t know what to expect. She’d never heard of Room to Read and had little sense of what the program would entail. On her first day, she met her social mobilizer, who immediately became an important role model. The social mobilizer regularly visited Chamodi’s home, speaking with her parents about the importance of girls’ education and working with Chamodi on foundational life skills, like communication, time management and leadership.

Meet Chamodi from Sri Lanka

She helped Chamodi create a home library and study corner and taught her how to create a schedule. Throughout their time together, Chamodi’s belief in herself and her abilities grew stronger.

“Slowly, I felt myself change. I had previously been afraid to speak in front of the class and express my opinions and feelings. After working with my social mobilizer, I found myself wanting to be a leader in group activities and give everyone equal opportunity to express their ideas,” Chamodi shared. As life skills lessons and individual mentoring sessions bolstered her confidence, Chamodi began to take part in extracurricular activities, like debate and drama. She often wrote on her own about past experiences and made time to reflect on how the experiences had shaped her relationships and her identity. As she approached her national exams, she worked with her social mobilizer to take advantage of opportunities for one-on-one tutoring and exam preparation. When she graduated from the program, Chamodi thought about the many ways in which she had benefited from the mentorship of her social mobilizer. She was interested in providing similar support to girls in her community. It didn’t take long for Chamodi to become a social mobilizer herself. “Room to Read brightened my life in every possible way,” Chamodi said. “Not only do I support myself and my family today, but I also get a chance to change the lives of more girls like me by being part of Room to Read’s Girls’ Education Program.”

Watch Chamodi deliver a virtual life skills lesson:




For as long as she can remember, Nuru, a Grade 10 student enrolled in Room to Read’s Girls’ Education Program in Tanzania, has been passionate about the environment. Seeing how waste was accumulating on her school campus, she decided to form an environmentally focused action and advocacy group, translated as “Group for Cleaning the Environment.” The goal was simple: organize her classmates to clean their campus and their local green spaces and inspire others to do the same.

Meet Nuru from Tanzania

“With life skills lessons, we learn how to build self-confidence and self-awareness,” Nuru reflected. “We learn how to make decisions, communicate and solve problems creatively.” These skills, she believes, prepared her to lead the Group for Cleaning the Environment. Nuru and her classmates now collect plastic waste along with remnant fabric from tailor shops that would otherwise be thrown away. Girls then use the materials to make jump ropes, door mats and other woven products that they later sell to members of their community. The idea of selling their products was also born from life skills lessons. “Financial literacy is one of the key life skills we focus on in Room to Read’s Girls’ Education Program,” said Nuru’s teacher, Gift. “Girls are taught to manage their finances and make key economic and social decisions that allow them to thrive.” Nuru primarily uses her earnings to pay for transportation to and from school, and to support other students in the Girls’ Education Program. The life skills taught through the program, she notes, “have not only taught us to conserve the environment, but also how to use the resources available in our environment to earn a living.”

Hear from Nuru directly at





Education, and all that education equals, is made possible because of the communities that invest in it — the students, educators, mentors, government partners and community advocates, parents and caregivers who make learning happen. Even in the face of extraordinary challenges, our global community of donors, volunteers, ambassadors and staff work s together to weave a network of support that helps secure students’ futures and ensure education endures.



Lilly Singh breaks record in support of Room to Read

Lilly Singh, actress, producer, author and creator, benefited 1,945 children through Room to Read’s programs by selecting Room to Read as the recipient of her record-breaking charitable winnings from “The Price Is Right at Night.” The episode aired on April 21, 2021, during a special prime-time slot on CBS and featured Lilly as a celebrity contestant playing fan-favorite games alongside other contestants for exciting prizes. “The Price Is Right” is the #1 rated daytime series and longest- running game show in U.S. television history. Lilly has previously collaborated with Room to Read on events in Johannesburg and San Francisco, and in 2019 she participated firsthand in supporting girls from our Girls’ Education Program in Mumbai.



Joanne Bethlahmy’s wanderlust was ignited at age 11 when she traveled extensively with her family. In college, she explored the countries of Europe while earning a degree in history. A graduate of University of California, Berkeley, and Hastings College of Law, it was not lost on her that education allowed her to access the wonders and beauty of the world, and that the opportunities she had to learn and experience the world were often denied to children, especially girls, around the globe.

Joanne was passionate about opportunities for women, literacy and reading, and she focused her charitable giving in these areas. When she passed, she included a legacy gift to Room to Read, providing more than 16,000 students with essential literacy and education equality support. Joanne’s brilliance and passion live on in these students whose lives are forever improved by her generosity.

Special thanks to Pat Williams for sharing these lovely memories of her dear friend, Joanne Bethlahmy. Learn more on our blog:


Teacher. Librarian. Longtime supporter of girls’ education. All these words, and many more, describe Helen* of Wisconsin, who in 2021 donated her entire estate — worth more than US $4.6 million — to Room to Read as a legacy gift. In her life, Helen influenced young minds and hearts as a dedicated teacher and librarian in Wauwatosa. She spent her career sharing the joy of learning with her students and believed fervently in education for girls. It was this passion that led her to name Room to Read as her sole beneficiary. In early 2021, Helen passed away at the age of 84, investing the entirety of her estate in Room to Read’s Girls’ Education Program. This surprise gift was the largest legacy gift we have ever received, and her generosity will change the lives of more than 15,300 students in our Girls’ Education Program.

Learn more about how to create your legacy: * Name changed to protect anonymity


“Working at Microsoft gave me the opportunity to be around so many smart people from all different walks of life. I quickly understood that education was the great leveler, so to deny someone an education because of their gender or where they were born, to limit their opportunity and potential in that way, was something I could not stand for.”

– Craig Herb, longtime supporter who has committed a legacy gift to Room to Read




Our dedicated network of volunteers continued to provide crucial support through events and other fundraising activities in 2021, including the first ever Step UP for Gender Equality Virtual Challenge. For the month of May, our volunteers encouraged their networks to Step UP by running, biking, meditating, reading or fundraising in some other way for gender equality. By the end of the campaign, volunteers had far exceeded our goal, raising enough to support more than 460 students in our Girls’ Education Program. In total, the campaign brought together more than 120 participants from 10 countries, thanks to our chapters along with numerous corporate partners, including BSI Group, Capco, Civica Asia Pacific, Credit Suisse, Gilbert + Tobin, Intuit, Optus, Synergy Plus, Tatcha and The Estée Lauder Companies Asia Pacific.


Room to Read is excited to welcome seven new members to our Book Creator Collective, a global network of authors and illustrators who believe in the power of storytelling to change the world. Learn more about authors Deborah Abela, Tristan Bancks, Nandana Dev Sen, Oliver Phommavanh, Shugri Salh, Sheetal Sheth and Mohsin Zaidi, and discover which of their books we’re recommending for your bookshelf:

Nandana Dev Sen

Deborah Abela

Tristan Bancks

Oliver Phommavanh

Shugri Salh

Sheetal Sheth

Mohsin Zaidi



Global Board transitions

We welcomed several new Global Board members in 2021, including Vicky Tsai, founder of Tatcha; Lydie Hudson; and Najoh Tita-Reid, chief marketing officer of Logitech. In addition, Room to Read’s Founder, John Wood, transitioned off our Global Board of Directors and joined our Emeritus Board. John will always remain an active member of the Room to Read family, continuing to help transform the lives of children through education.

“I’ve now reached every founder’s dream-state: to look across the entire organization and see hundreds of skilled leaders making change happen every day and knowing that the organization will continue to thrive even after I depart.” – John Wood, Founder, Room to Read

“For a sustainable future, it is essential that we invest in the next generations globally. This entails enabling access to education for children everywhere, irrelevant of gender or economic backgrounds. It is my honor to join hands with Room to Read and their global board of executives from both private and public sectors to support and contribute to the mission of eradicating illiteracy and gender inequality.” – Lydie Hudson

“Education is everything — an invariable right, regardless of gender or economic background. We have an opportunity to ensure all children experience this, without prejudice or inequality. I would not be here today if someone did not fight for my right to have an education as a young girl growing up in a village in Africa and as a minority in the United States of America. I am humbled to join the Room to Read community and excited to play a part in supporting future generations with literacy and life skills that will shape tomorrow’s world.” – Najoh Tita-Reid, Chief Marketing Officer, Logitech “I’m incredibly honored to join Room to Read’s Board of Directors and for the opportunity to continue supporting Room to Read’s mission of transforming lives through education in an expanded, global role. As more than one billion children globally face pandemic-related learning loss, the need for Room to Read’s work has never been greater. I’m humbled to be a part of the program’s continued growth and impact both personally and professionally through Tatcha’s Beautiful Faces, Beautiful Futures Program.” – Vicky Tsai, Founder, Tatcha


MAJOR PARTNERS Organizational investors are critical to our success in improving the lives of children from historically under-resourced communities around the world. Whether through grants, employee engagement, cause marketing partnerships or in-kind donations, these partners help us create benefit at scale.

Atlassian Foundation International has donated more than US$12.5 million toward Room to Read’s programs. In 2019, Atlassian was the largest investor in our Girls’ Education Program in

Credit Suisse has been a strong corporate partner since 2005, benefiting more

than 150,000 children to date and funding multiple strategic projects, including the launch of Room to Read’s technical assistance work. Room to Read is one of the key partners in the Credit Suisse Financial Education for Girls Program, implementing financial education and life skills clubs in Tanzania and Sri Lanka. In addition, Credit Suisse launched a corporate matching program in 2020 to support our COVID-19 initiatives. Furthermore, Credit Suisse sponsored our 2020 virtual global gala, donates office space for Room to Read staff in Asia and provides capacity-building through its Global Citizens Program. In 2021, Echidna Giving made a 4-year grant investment in our Girls’ Education Program. Echidna Giving is a leading thought partner for Room to Read in the areas of innovation, analysis, learning and systemic change.

Cambodia and the largest corporate investor from Australia. Atlassian staff also provide significant personal support to Room to Read through their “Dollars a Day” workplace giving program.

Since 2015, Bank of America – BA Continuum

India (BACI) has supported Room to Read’s literacy efforts in India through the establishment of 230 libraries. BACI is also supporting thousands of girls in the Girls’ Education Program in India.

Since 2016, Room to Read has gratefully received over US$2.7 million in funding from

BNP Paribas Group and its employees globally. BNP Paribas Group entities supported our Girls’ Education Program in India and Vietnam through corporate social responsibility grants and employee engagement. This partnership has helped more than 19,284 girls to succeed in secondary school and develop key life skills. Since 2019, Cartier Philanthropy has partnered with us to support Girls’ Education in Cambodia and Bangladesh through a multiyear grant. Cartier Philanthropy is promoting the advancement of gender equality in education in these countries by impacting a total of 4,350 girls, changing the life trajectory of not only these girls but also their families and communities. is a long-time, essential partner in advancing projects

critical to Room to Read’s mission. Google has supported new projects to train teachers in Indonesia on conducting effective reading activities and increase access to Bahasa Indonesia children’s stories on, our digital learning platform. In addition, many Google employees have directed their time, talent, and treasure to help create much-needed educational opportunities for children around the world.

Through Goldman Sachs and Goldman Sachs Gives, the company and its senior executives have contributed more than US$25.6 million to Room to Read. In 2021, Goldman Sachs supported our Literacy

Through its e for Education initiative, Citi donates a percentage of the business proceeds traded electronically across its

and Girls’ Education Programs, benefiting more than 10,827 children.

Markets franchise to education-focused nonprofits. Citi’s e for Education has raised over US$56 million to date and Room to Read and Citi have been partners since the inception of this campaign in 2013. In 2021, Room to Read was the recipient of a US$930,000 grant toward our areas of greatest need.

IKEA Foundation has invested in

Room to Read’s literacy work in Bangladesh and Indonesia since 2016. The IKEA Foundation has also supported Room to Read’s first-ever girls’ education-focused technical


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