2019 Nov 20
While on vacation at a cafe in Nepal, John Wood – an ex-Director of Business Development for Microsoft strikes a conversation with a school principal and soon learns of the dire lack and need for books in rural Nepalese schools. And so he travels back, collects some books and makes his way back to Nepal where he distributes them and lays the foundation for a global-non-profit organisation called Room to Read.
Room to Read has since spread its branches into many countries worldwide and its story in Sri Lankan begins in 2005. Moving to the island-nation one year prior than planned, Room to Read immediately took to rebuilding schools affected by the devastating Tsunami and helped create long term infrastructure improvements. With the end of the 30 year-long war Room to Read then spread into the Nothern Peninsula and has since worked in 7 out of the country’s 9 provinces.
Working with the Sri Lankan Ministry of Education, Room to Read has amalgamated its values into the education system through various means; bridging the gender gap through girls education programmes and filling the void of fictional and non-fictional educational books with mesmerising illustrations and engrossing storylines.
Here’s why this is important!
Although it is a known fact that the literacy rate of Sri Lanka is at an impressive mark, the truth of the matter is the comprehension of material lies low. Combatting this issue in a way that retains the young learners’ attention is a challenging one. However, Room to Read’s systematic implementation of promoting the art of reading to primary school children is one of the best ways in which comprehension could be promoted, and here’s why.
Stories share encounters that allow readers to recognise shared experiences, and in doing so, opens oneself to numerous contexts. This is vital in learning any subject. Thus, not only improves the learner’s ability to read but also improves the readers’ ability to grasp any subject and situation at hand.
The organisation’s end goal is to create life-long independent readers and this is done through their Reading Development Programme that entails three components; Read Aloud – where the teacher narrates the story aloud, Shared Reading – where students read together with the teacher, Paired Reading – two students reading together and finally Independent Reading.
Adding to their unconventional, effective and interesting methods are their exclusive publications; both fictional and non-fictional. While Room to Read Sri Lanka has been publishing fictional stories since 2006, the introduction of non-fiction makes the Sri Lankan chapter the first of this organisation. Here’s where the real magic happens.
Room to Read’s Non-Fictional Publications
Moving from fictional to non-fictional stories came to be with the implementation of numerous workshops to recognise themes and topics for younglings.
The lack of material on facts and real events in engaging narratives was a loophole soon admitted, and so, a group of writers and other professionals in the publishing field got together to survey topics that work best with young minds.
“Non-fiction is writing about facts or real events, rather than made-up stories. These books describe, explain and teach about the real world. They also should be fun, entertaining and visually engaging” hence, Room to Read’s values of Educate, Entertain and Engage entails exploring a topic through a storyline with a strong structure. The creative approach they take incorporates illustrations that are truly one of a kind making adults engross in the stories as well.
These publications are well-researched and factually correct building the student’s literacy and vocabulary. The playful, humorous and interesting storylines break away from the conventional informative books and tugs at the readers’ heartstrings, making them read more and more.
Finishing off with attractive and compelling illustrations, the books produced by Room to Read go through many phases of changes just to ensure its readers receive only the best of the best. What’s more, is that all of these publications are monitored by the Ministry of Education.
The books that are published in Sinhala and Tamil are not only filling the void of children’s literature but also promotes the growth of local publishing industries.
A venture that is first of its kind, Room to Read has been able to impact the lives of many children! Here’s a quick look into its impact: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=281&v=9Ch7RSoM07A&feature=emb_logo