The Tiger’s Bookshelf: Room to Read and the Joy of Literacy

Sometimes the simplest remark can be the most transforming. “Perhaps, sir, you will come back with books,” a Nepalese headmaster said to John Wood, a vacationing Microsoft employee, as they stood in a school library that had twenty books that “were all backpacker cast-offs.” Haunted by the thought of children who might never know the joy of reading, Wood returned home and spent a year gathering children’s books. He went back to the headmaster with 3,000 volumes and a new direction for his life. John Wood decided that bringing books to children who have none was his vocation and Room to Read was born, as he tells readers in Leaving Microsoft to Change the World.

Wood put together an organization with staff who share his dream and his passion, aided by a fundraising network of more than 3,000 people. The core programs of Room to Read are the Reading Room which has built 5,600 libraries,  Local Language Publishing which publishes and distributes books written both in English and the local language, the School Room which works with local communities to build schools with 444 in use, the Room to Grow Girls’ Scholarship that enables 4,000 girls to complete their secondary education, and the Computer and Language Room which builds computer and language labs.

Found in India, Sri Lanka, Zambia, South Africa, Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, Room to Read is vitalized by donations and volunteers, who have discovered how they can help by going to All share a common goal—to have built 10,000 libraries by 2010.

Scheduled half-day visits to a Room to Read site are welcome with advance arrangement.

One man, one dream, 3,000 books– one optimistic remark changed a life and consequently thousands of lives are being changed through the power of reading and the joy of literacy, all over the world.

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6 Responses to “The Tiger’s Bookshelf: Room to Read and the Joy of Literacy”

  1. Jen Robinson Says:

    It is an inspiring story. I have John Wood’s book – I really must make time to read it. Thanks for the reminder.

  2. Corinne Says:

    I highly recommend reading Three Cups of Tea – One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace . . . One School at a Time written by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin. This book was the 2007 Kiriyama non-fiction winner! Brief synopsis “One day in 1993, high up in the world’s most inhospitable mountains, Greg Mortenson wandered lost and alone, broken in body and spirit, after a failed attempt to climb K2, the world’s deadliest peak. When the people of an impoverished village in Pakistan’s Karakoram Himalaya took him in and nursed him back to health, Mortenson made an impulsive promise: He would return one day and build them a school.”

  3. Aline Says:

    Yes! John Wood and Greg Mortenson are both doing very inspiring and meaningful work to bring education to children in remote, often war-torn villages all over the world. We will be featuring a review of the picture book version of Three Cups of Tea, titled “Listen to The Wind: The Story of Dr. Greg and Three Cups of Tea” as part of our upcoming website update, and there’s also a young readers version of the book coming out soon. Now children of all ages will be inspired by Greg Mortenson’s efforts and accomplishments. It would be very nice to see John Wood’s story written for a young audience as well…

  4. Corinne Says:

    Aline – that sounds wonderful! I can hardly wait to see the review.

  5. caribookscoops Says:

    What an incredible story! Thanks for the info. I will definitely get the picture book when it comes out to read to my daughter to teach her about helping others particularily in regards to reading. Meanwhile I’ll be reading the other book.

  6. Corinne Says:

    The past two nights I have put my kids to bed and then stayed up until midnight reading this book. What an amazing story!