Because of your support, children across Asia and Africa have been given an opportunity to thrive through education. Thank you for making 2014 a great year!
We recently made a short video with a cheeky challenge: DO NOT READ THIS. The idea was to force people to think about how integral literacy is to their daily lives since it is a skill most of us (reading this sentence right now) take for granted. But is it safe to assume that we have adequately embraced the value of education? And not just for us, but for everyone?
A recent comment on our DO NOT READ THIS video reminded me why we still have work to do when it comes to advocating for education. I couldn't help but notice how this comment spells out an attitude that I suspect many still hold. Here's the final, pointed sentence:
"The money spent on teaching starving kids in Africa how to read would be better spent fighting LEGITIMATE issues, like world hunger."
The message is clear. Literacy, and by extension education, is not a legitimate issue. In fairness to this person, it may feel justified to address something like hunger over literacy. If someone were dying of hunger, they likely would prefer a bowl of rice over a book.
But this "either/or" emergency scenario inadequately represents the real fight against hunger. Those who fight hunger know that, while at times necessary, handing out food is not enough to systemically and forcibly end the problem. Rather, lasting solutions are those that empower individuals and communities to provide for themselves. When you take seriously the human desire to be self-sustaining and fulfilled, you can see why human needs don't always fit into a simple hierarchy.
At Room to Read, I hear countless stories of students travelling long and dangerous distances to get to class, students who forgo food to afford school fees, and girls who defy their families and risk social scorn to obtain an education. Perhaps they understand something that we fail to fully appreciate.
As former United Nations Secretary-General and Nobel laureate Kofi Annan stated:
"Literacy is a bridge from misery to hope... It is a bulwark against poverty, and a building block of development... Especially for girls and women, it is an agent of family health and nutrition. For everyone, everywhere, literacy is, along with education in general, a basic human right.... Literacy is, finally, the road to human progress and the means through which every man, woman and child can realize his or her full potential."
We don't fight for education because we think it's more important than fighting climate change, poverty, conflict, hunger, or disease. We fight for education precisely because we care about these things. Here are the facts:
Yet, funding for global education has been shrinking, and now represents only 1.4 percent of humanitarian aid.
We know that education is one of the most powerful tools we can use to further human flourishing, and we also know that if a child fails to achieve basic literacy skills by at least the third grade, it becomes almost impossible for him or her to catch up. Yet, we struggle to treat education with a sense of urgency. Perhaps this is why the BBC recently described the lack of global education as "one of the biggest man-made disasters on the planet," and raised the question: "Why does a lack of education never get treated like an emergency?"
We've been wondering the same thing.
In an interconnected world, we can't always arrange our problems in a linear fashion to solve one at a time. We must invest in proven, dynamic, and manifold strategies. This is exactly how Room to Read targets two of the most critical steps on the path to global education: literacy and gender equality in education.
We tackle these issues from every angle, and the results are astounding. Our interventions have benefited nearly nine million children and we intend to impact at least 10 million by the end of 2015. While these numbers are exciting, the quantity wouldn't mean anything if we did not rigorously research, monitor and evaluate the efficacy of our interventions in order to validate the quality of that impact. With this validation, we can be confident that the solutions we are creating for global education can pave the way towards even more lasting solutions for our world.
Remember Tay Thi? A mighty girl with an unrelenting passion for education, she snuck out to take exams after her parents burned her books...twice! You can read her full story on our blog and also in an article by the New York Times' Nicholas Kristof, who got to visit Tay Thi in Vietnam. But since we don't all get the chance to meet this awe-inspiring girl, we've brought you a short video of her story. We hope you will enjoy it. Happy International Day of the Girl!
This week we celebrate World Teachers' Day!
Effective teachers are an essential part of an effective education, but many passionate teachers lack the resources and skills they need to succeed.
That's why Room to Read invests in teachers in places like Cambodia where teachers face particular challenges in helping children achieve basic literacy skills. Khmer is one of the most difficult languages in the world, and after the Khmer Rouge persecuted teachers, there was a devastating shortage of qualified teachers.
However, the students of the teachers we trained in Cambodia made more than twice as much progress in their reading fluency by the end of the 2nd grade. Training one teacher to be effective in the classroom amounts to a whole classroom of benefited children year after year. That's why investing in teachers is always a great investment!
Watch this video to see how listening to data is improving the lives of students in Sri Lanka.
With so many challenges facing children trying to learn to read around the world, we want to provide more than our best intentions and best efforts. We want to provide the best solutions and the best results as well. That's why we go to such great lengths to research, monitor and evaluate our programs. We put some of the world's best global education researchers, like Matthew Jukes (who you will meet in the video) on the job, and many more trained data collectors on the ground so that we can test and objectively measure the efficacy of our programs. The data not only helps shape our program design, it also helps provide "live" feedback and guidance to the educators in the field. So they can make the adjustments necessary for their students to become better readers.
Did you ever have a teacher that could make you sit on the edge of your seat? A teacher that inspired and challenged you in a way that made learning exciting? And have you ever had a teacher that seemed to induce sleep even when it was your favorite subject? Some people believe that the ability to create this kind of magic in the classroom is an innate gift, and you either have or you don't. But thinkers like Christopher Edmin believe that this magic in teaching can be taught. And at Room to Read we know this to be true because we see it first hand in the teachers that we train. This is the story of Amphone.
“I was a very quiet, shy and reluctant teacher. I always wanted to try new teaching styles in order to create a fun learning atmosphere in my class. Yet, I did not know how; and other older teachers would not like it if I did things differently," she recalls. Her shy disposition and discouragement made Amphone wonder if she was "cut out" to be a teacher. "Every day, we, the teachers, only taught and pushed students to go through a lesson aiming only to finish all lessons in the text book before the semester ended.” But despite the pressure to get through the lessons, the students were not learning. “More than half of my students could not read. Many who seemed like they could read were actually remembering the words by where each one was located in the classroom, textbook or on the chalkboard, not because they could read vowels and consonants and decode the words on their own," she explained. Every day after school, the feeling of tired boredom grew stronger for Amphone. She wondered if she should pursue a different profession — until 2009, when Room to Read provided reading and writing instruction training to the teachers in her school.
The Room to Read team equipped the teachers with materials and techniques that would revolutionize the way Amphone taught reading. After she completed her first training, she experimented with several of the techniques and materials provided by the program, and that's when it happened: magic. “My students just could not stay sitting. They were competing with each other to answer my questions and coming up to write on the blackboard. While observing their reaction, I knew immediately that this was working!” Since then, she has never missed a single training conducted by Room to Read. Six years later, 90% of her current students can read even if they have not seen the words before, because now they can decode them. And halfway through Grade 1, she is now leading them towards reading full sentences so they can soon be reading by themselves.
Not only did the quality training help put the magic back into learning for the students, it also put the magic into teaching for Amphone. “It is so fascinating to see the radical improvement in their reading skills. It makes me feel so happy.” It was as though she discovered her career without even changing jobs. “Every day is not just another teaching day for me anymore. Each day I see smiles, laughter, and improvement in the students’ learning. I realize, this is what I want the most out of my career in life.”
Today is our founder, John Wood's birthday. Fourteen years after John changed his future after visiting a school in rural Nepal, he now can claim that nearly nine million children's futures have been changed through his work and the work of those who have joined him along the way. So happy birthday John--and thank you for bringing us along in your journey to change the world through education and literacy!
Watch our new video about Room to Read through the eyes of our birthday boy, John Wood, and our co-founder and CEO, Erin Ganju.
If you want to learn more about the history of Room to Read, don't miss John Wood's second book, Creating Room to Read: A Story of Hope in the Battle for Global Literacy, just released yesterday in paperback!
Thanks to your incredible support, we’ve helped change the future for nearly nine million children. As 2013 comes to a close, a few of us got together to say thanks.
This holiday season, give the gift of literacy with Room to Read and help change the future for children across Asia and Africa. All gifts will be matched 2:1 through Dec. 31 thanks to a group of generous donors (up to $2.7 million). www.roomtoread.org/holiday
Join us in celebrating all that we have accomplished together over the past 12 months, with a short video we put together to say thanks.
And don't forget...there are still a few days left to get in your last-minute gifts before the end of the year! Make your donation today at www.roomtoread.org/donate and double your impact (through 12/31).
Today is Human Rights Day, an annual opportunity to celebrate human rights and advocate for their full enjoyment by all people. This year, the United Nations has chosen to highlight the rights of every person across the globe to make their voices heard in public life and be included in political decision-making.
At Room to Read, we focus on making these rights more accessible to children and adolescent girls the best way we know how—by investing in quality education for some of the world’s most underserved communities. Beyond being a human right in and of itself (Article 26 to be exact), education also helps children find their voices—enabling greater participation in society and politics at all levels.
This aspect of education is especially important for women, who are vastly underrepresented in the political sphere in most countries around the world. Through the life skills training included in our Girls’ Education program, Room to Read helps girls develop the skills they need to break this pattern of exclusion, such as decision-making, goal-setting and interpersonal communication.
In honor of this year’s Human Rights Day, we bring you a special video premiere that celebrates the important role that life skills play in helping all young women know and defend their own rights. In the video you'll hear from one girl, Rehema, who plans to use this knowledge to build a better future for herself and her country.
Learn more about our work in Tanzania.