During a visit to Nepal, John Wood was simultaneously struck by the enthusiasm of the local students and the lack of resources in their schools. That led him to leave his senior executive position at Microsoft and start Room to Read in 1999. The organization’s scope has grown over the years, but its mission remains essentially the same: transform the lives of children in developing countries through education.
You can donate Hilton HHonors points to help support this important cause.
When Room to Read began, it primarily provided books and other materials to schools in Nepal. The nonprofit quickly grew and developed its Literacy Program, which is now implemented in 12 countries with plans for further expansion this year. Through this program, Room to Read works with local communities to provide a variety of resources for their schools, including teacher training, building improvements, books and more.
Room to Read’s other major initiative is the Girls’ Education Program. Recognizing that girls in developing countries drop out of school at particularly high rates, Room to Read created the program to encourage girls to remain in school by providing material support, mentoring and more.
The organization has worked with over 18,000 schools throughout its history, helping over 80,000 students through the Literacy Program and over 38,000 girls through the Girls’ Education Program.
The Literacy Program
Literacy is Room to Read’s largest program. That’s because reading and writing skills are so crucial. Children who don’t receive a strong foundation in literacy skills are much more likely to live in poverty.
Nearly 40 percent of all primary school-age children in the world are not learning the basics, including reading and writing. That’s about 250 million kids who deserve a better education.
Room to Read focuses on reducing the barriers to learning that those kids face, including a lack of educational resources, limited exposure to age-appropriate books, teachers with insufficient training and inadequate infrastructure.
Having properly trained teachers is fundamental. Room to Read offers training and in-class coaching in a highly effective phonics-based instructional method for early grade teachers. In 2015, Room to Read provided training to over 9,000 teachers and librarians.
Another goal is to provide students with reading materials that are appropriate for their skill level. This is key because students can easily become discouraged by texts that are too challenging. To provide books for every skill level, the organization has helped establish over 18,000 libraries and distributed over 18 million books.
Educational materials in local languages that are age-appropriate are often hard to find. To deal with this, Room to Read creates those materials and has published over 1,300 original book titles. Having a comfortable and safe place to learn is important. In 2015, Room to Read helped construct over 300 new classrooms and libraries and renovated 124 existing buildings to help create appropriate learning environments.
The Girls’ Education Program
Of the nearly 800 million people around the world who are illiterate, two thirds of them are women and girls. While registration of girls in schools has improved dramatically, they still face high dropout rates.
It’s important for girls to stay in school. More education increases the probability that a woman will build a smaller and healthier family, earn a higher wage and educate her own children. For each additional year of education a girl completes, her income increases about 15 to 25 percent.
In the countries where Room to Read works, girls face obstacles such as the cost of attending school, the need to contribute to their family’s income, and the pressure to marry and start a family. To encourage girls to complete their education, the Girls’ Education Program focuses on developing life skills, providing mentors and material support, and encouraging community engagement.
In 2015, Room to Read supported nearly 30,000 girls and helped 726 more students graduate from secondary school. The dropout rate for girls at Room to Read partner schools was only nine percent.
Dedication to Sustainability and Scale
Room to Read is dedicated to creating long-term, systemic changes instead of quick fixes. To accomplish that goal, the organization partners with governments, schools and communities to create local ownership and equip those institutions with the ability to continue on their own.
The organization also works hard to scale its programs according to a country’s needs. That means developing codified programming and implementation packages that can easily be applied by schools throughout a country’s educational system.
The Partnership With Hilton
Hilton’s partnership with Room to Read grew out of their desire to give back to areas where they have properties. According to Geetha Murali, Room to Read’s Chief Development Officer, Hilton’s exactly the type of partner they look for because they “go beyond cash investment” and get involved in the nonprofit’s mission.
In addition to investing in Room to Read and donating prizes for fundraising events, Hilton provides employee volunteers and has developed a girls’ education job-shadowing program in India and Sri Lanka. Through that program, Room to Read students can learn about the travel and hospitality industry, opening up many job opportunities.
Since 2012, the Hilton and Room to Read partnership has helped support over 55,000 students, including nearly 800 girls through the Girls’ Education Program; established 30 schools; constructed four school buildings; and published five local language book titles. Hilton encourages its HHonors members to also participate by giving points. Every point that’s donated is turned into a cash contribution to Room to Read that helps provide a quality education to a child who needs it.
Learning how to read and write in early childhood can have a profound impact on someone’s life, improving their future health, income and quality of life. Help give kids in underserved countries the opportunity to learn by supporting Room to Read’s efforts to provide much-needed materials, teacher training, mentoring and other resources.
Donations of any size are welcome, so if you have Hilton HHonors points consider giving them to this worthy cause.