Skoll Foundation


Room to Read

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

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In 1998, John Wood was trekking in Nepal as a holiday from his hectic life as a senior Microsoft executive. A teacher invited him to visit a school. John was saddened by the library, a small crumbling building almost completely devoid of books. Thinking about how much his hometown library had affected his life, John returned a short time later on a yak with more than 3,000 books. In early 2000, John founded Room to Read. John explained that “the library in Nepal — a supposedly one-off project — has instead morphed into my life’s passion. I’ve never been happier, worked harder or believed more strongly in an organization.” RtR has been honored four times with the Fast Company Social Capitalist Award, a Draper Richards Fellowship and Time magazine’s Asian Heroes Award. John was also chosen as the first Kellogg School “Alumni Social Entrepreneur of the Year.”


  • Room to Read brings the lifelong gift of education to children in 10 developing countries in Asia and Africa by building more than 1,752 schools and opening 16,060 libraries. Over 8.8 million children now have access to this network.They have published 885 books and distributed 13.3 million books.
  • In Sept. 2014, joined a Clinton Global Initiative commitment and plans to invest $12 million to serve an additional 15,000 girls in nine countries to ensure that girls transition to secondary school and then from school to the workforce or higher education.
  • Communities throughout Asia and Africa have co-invested with Room to Read to build these new school buildings. Communities help manage the projects on the ground and share in the costs of materials and labor. Once a building is complete it is a public school, owned and operated entirely by the local government and community.
  • Recognizing the need for children’s books in languages where there has not been a market for them, Room to Read has published over 700 children’s titles developed, edited and printed in 27 languages. Each one is designed to reinforce a child’s love of reading and learning.
  • 25,703 girls have participated in their Girls’ Education program. In one year, 95% of girls stayed in the program with a 97% advancement rate.



© 2015 Skoll Foundation.