Skoll Foundation


Room to Read

Skoll Awardee(s): John Wood
Award Year: 2006
Issue Area(s) Addressed: Education

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“Room to Read believes that every child, regardless of the circumstances of their birth, deserves to obtain an education.”

Sub-Issues: Early Childhood to Primary Education; Women’s and Girls’ Education

There are 850 million illiterate people in the developing world.

The Skoll Awardee: In 1998, John Wood was trekking in Nepal on holiday from his life as a senior Microsoft executive. Visiting a school, he was saddened by its library, a crumbling building almost devoid of books. Thinking how his hometown library had affected his life, he returned a short time later on a yak with more than 3,000 books. In early 2000, he founded Room to Read. The library in Nepal — a supposedly one-off project — had become his life’s passion. RtR is builds educational institutions and systems in countries that lack resources, partnering with a community that provides land, materials, labor, and some of the funding to construct a school or to establish a library. RtR offers library training, English and native-language books, monitors performance, and offers scholarships to girls. RtR often acts as a model for the government education systems by testing new programs and methods. In Cambodia, it pioneered computer labs in secondary schools. Noting a lack of children’s books in Nepal, it partnered with NGOs and a publisher to produce books by local authors and illustrators. RtR has an innovative growth and sustainability model, with chapters in 40 cities around the world engaging more than 3,500 volunteers to raise awareness and money, and promoting RtR’s work by hosting events and offering “adopt a” library, school or girl scholarship options. At the time of the Award, Room to Read had constructed 700 schools, established 7,000 libraries, and funded 6,800 scholarships in eight countries.

Impact since joining the portfolio in 2006:

  • Room to Read’s cumulative impact now extends to 10 countries in Asia and Africa, where the organization has built more than 1,752 schools, opened 16,060 libraries, published 885 books and distributed 13.3 million books.
  • Nearly 9 million children have access to this network.
  • Completed schools and libraries are owned and operated entirely by the local government and community.
  • 25,703 girls have participated in Room to Read’s Girls’ Education program.



© 2015 Skoll Foundation.