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A Story of Hope in the Battle for Global Literacy

by John Wood

Pub Date: Feb. 11th, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-670-02598-5
Publisher: Viking

How one man's vision of making books available to every child has changed the lives of millions.

In 1999, at the height of the tech boom, Wood (Leaving Microsoft to Change the World: An Entrepreneur's Odyssey to Educate the World's Children, 2006, etc.) gave up the executive fast track at Microsoft to pursue “the quest for global literacy.” His success—the opening of 10,000 school libraries across the globe within the next decade—exceeded his optimistic expectations. Room to Read, the organization that he founded, has published more than 700 children's books in local languages, expanded globally into 10 countries in Asia and Africa, partnered with local communities to build new schools and provided 17,000 scholarships for women. This moving account of the way the program has impacted the lives of children is only one part of Wood’s important story. The author explains how he applied lessons learned in the corporate world to running a successful nonprofit, describing Room to Read's commitment to maintaining low overhead and accountability. Opening the first school libraries (filled with donated English-language books) revealed the need for simple children's books in local languages, and this led to the publishing venture. Similarly, the organization addressed the special problems faced by young girls who wanted an education. In every instance, local communities were challenged to partner in the venture. Wood explains how he is achieving his goal of being “one of many leaders of a global movement,” and he pays special tribute to Nelson Mandela's understanding of how encouraging “a profound and deep love” for reading can be a transformative social force.

An absorbing personal account of a remarkable achievement.