Exploring Room to Read
About Room to Read: By 2015, over 93 million children between the ages of 15-24 will be classified as illiterate. We envision a world in which all children can pursue a quality education, reach their full potential and contribute to their community and the world. To achieve this goal, we focus on two areas where we believe we can have the greatest impact: literacy and gender equality in education. We are inspiring a network of volunteers to join our global education movement and share the Room to Read story around the world.
For more information, Frontline World did a comprehensive piece on Room to Read, featuring founder John Wood in a series about “uncommon heroes helping to change the world.”
What is Room to Read? The average human may feign disinterest due to the overwhelming ideas that Room to Read brings us, but truly, this organization is like an exotic superhero worthy of every moment spent delving into and understanding its unique way of doing humanitarian business.
After learning about Room to Read, and of its mission, I came to realize the root of all humanity’s struggles on Planet Earth is a lack of education. If one were to follow the devastating road called Epidemic Illiteracy to the very end, one would find most of the issues that countless non-profits attempt to fix: poverty, hunger, trafficking, disease, and so forth.
According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics (NCCS), there are more than 1.5 million non-profits in the United States, all vying for donor money. Many of these organizations, however, who honestly wish to help those who cannot help themselves, are taking donor money and using much of it to run their businesses.
This is where Room to Read comes into the picture. Ten thousand volunteers in 52 chapters around the world raise a substantial portion of Room to Read’s revenue, which translates to the construction of six libraries a day in the ten countries where they currently operate. They are not only concerned about making books available, however. Room to Read is also building schools, publishing local-language children’s books, training teachers on literacy education, and continually supporting girls to complete secondary school.
On a sunny autumn morning at a local coffeeshop, I met with Craig Herb, Chapter Head for the Washington D.C. branch of Room to Read. Like its founder and Executive Chairman, John Wood, whose memoir Leaving Microsoft to Change the World helped Room to Read become internationally visible, Craig too left a vibrant career with Microsoft to commit his life to a cause that focuses on ending global illiteracy.
“Our success relies very much on our volunteers,” Craig told me, which after reviewing their financials is clear. Most of the volunteers world-wide are under forty years old, with Tokyo, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Sydney hosting some of the most active chapters, each with hundreds of volunteers. Even Room to Read’s vibrant website is maintained through a donation from Ketchum, one of the world’s largest PR firms.
Craig, a fulltime Room to Read volunteer networker, commutes to D.C. from his home in North Carolina each week. “I love what I do,” he remarked, “and totally because of the mission. It’s Sales 101, which is challenging, but the mission has such an incredible impact.”
So, if you are out there with a few spare hours on your daily schedule, wondering how you may best serve the needs of your community, you might want to consider contacting Room to Read.
“You want to talk about any of the big issues,” he offers, “the answer is always education. If we can create the ability for every child to become literate, fall in love with education, finish secondary school, the world will change. … It’s very very clear that this is the truth.”
Next week, Dina continues her interview with Craig Herb and introduces specific ways that you can get involved with Room to Read.