Scaling early literacy

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Literacy is the foundation of all future learning. Despite the nearly universal acknowledgment of the benefits of literacy, 250 million children around the world are still not learning basics like reading and writing. Numerous barriers prevent students from developing the literacy skills they need to thrive – including a lack of educational resources, minimal exposure to age-appropriate books, insufficiently trained teachers, and overstretched infrastructure. Without a strong foundation of literacy skills, children are more likely to struggle throughout their education, live in poverty, and see their potential hampered.


Focusing on data-driven interventions that provide resources, increase local capacity, and improve training, Room to Read has a proven approach to increasing literacy skills and helping children develop a habit of reading early in life. They have honed this strategy to create sustainable impact at scale. Working in partnership with local communities, governments, and the private sector, they help to implement effective programming in library services, reading and writing instruction, and high-quality children’s book publishing – impacting over 18 million children to date.


While the fundamental requirements to teach reading and develop a habit of reading are consistent, each country’s context and needs are different. Room to Read uses international best practices while working with governments to focus on the elements of literacy support that will have the highest impact in their school systems, are easy to scale, and are cost-effective.


  • Showcase Room to Read’s proven literacy model and demonstrate how to scale effective system-level change for early-grade literacy in India, Vietnam, and South Africa, thanks to more than $3.5 million in funding support from partners. This will contribute directly to Room to Read’s goal of impacting over 1.1 million more children in these countries over the next three years.

  • Specifically:

    1. In India – scale-up literacy instruction and teacher training coupled with building the habit of reading, in collaboration with the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) and state governments.
    2. In Vietnam – scale-up the establishment of “model libraries” that will be replicated by the government, in collaboration with the Ministry of Education and Training (MoET).
    3. In South Africa – scale-up access to quality reading materials by working with the Department of Basic Education and provincial government agencies to develop national recommendations for storybook quality – and train local publishers and authors to develop early-grade storybooks in indigenous languages.


Expanded programs into new geographies, working in more languages and investing in new technologies, to now benefit over 18 million children in 39,000 communities in 16 countries around the world:

  • In India, Room to Read ran a national reading campaign in August 2019 with engagement from community members, teachers and government officials. The campaign reached 2 million students in more than 30,000 schools. During the campaign, Room to Read worked with Google to encourage reading skills and habits among children in India using Google’s mobile-based app, Read Along. In total, the campaign reached 56,000 children across 522 schools in 5 states.
  • Established 192 expansion libraries in Vietnam as part of Room to Read’s library model, reaching an estimated 141,000 students in 34 of Vietnam’s 63 provinces (up from 16 provinces at launch).
  • Increased the supply of high-quality indigenous language storybooks as part of the Results in Education for All Children (REACH) project. Worked with five local publishers in South Africa to create early-grade story books in five indigenous languages, distributing over 46,000 copies to government schools and 16,000 copies to the public.



Donate to Room to Read to expand programming and resources within these three countries and beyond.


Keep the discourse going on the role of early literacy as a foundational element of education to ensure it is made a top policy priority for leaders around the world.