Erin Ganju

Room to Read

Room to Read transforms the lives of millions of children in the developing world by focusing on literacy and gender equality in education.

Focus: Education
Geographic Area of Impact: Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Laos, Nepal, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Vietnam and Zambia
Model: Leveraged Non-Profit
Number of Direct Beneficiaries: 1,019,258 (2013)
Annual Budget: USD $47.8 million (2013)

Currently there are 774 million illiterate adults and 122 million illiterate children in the world, 2/3 of them women and girls. While tremendous progress has been made as a result of UNESCO’s Education for All movement, in many parts of the developing world, insufficient teacher training, lack of instructional materials and a focus on memorization over comprehension often result in low literacy skills.

Innovation and Activities
Room to Read focuses on two of the most significant issues in developing countries where extreme poverty and other barriers prevent children from pursuing an education: Literacy and Girls’ Education.

The Literacy program increases access to culturally-relevant, age-appropriate reading materials; increases the effectiveness of teachers to teach literacy skills; and improves the school environment to be more conducive to learning. To increase the amount of culturally-appropriate reading material, Room to Read trains local authors and illustrators on themes and techniques for younger readers and commissions books from local publishers, thereby fueling a local publishing industry. In addition, Room to Read has established more than 16,000 school libraries and trained over 40,000 teachers on how to engage students with reading material, including lesson plans, book reports, and read aloud sessions.

Under the Girls’ Education programme, Room to Read provides financial assistance and mentoring through a network of social mobilizers, who act as role models, counsellors, and advocates for girls. Girls enrolled in the programme also attend life skills camps and workshops to develop needed skills in school and after graduation, such as self-awareness and empathy, communication and interpersonal skills, decision- making and problem-solving, critical and creative thinking, and coping with stress and emotions. The Girls Education programme cumulatively reached 25,000 girls in 2013 and maintains a 95% retention rate.

To date, the organization has benefitted the lives of nearly 9 million children. Evaluation studies in multiple countries demonstrate that children in schools that have Room to Read programmes read for leisure 20-30% more on a weekly basis than children in government schools.

The Entrepreneur
Erin co-founded Room to Read in 2000 with John Wood and Dinesh Shrestha. Erin is an experienced international business development professional, having lived in Asia for several years and prior to founding Room to Read, worked as vice president of business development for Dejima, Inc. and at Unilever N.V. and Goldman Sachs. She is a member of the Young Presidents’ Organization and was recognized by Fast Company as a member of The League of Extraordinary Women (2012). Erin holds combined bachelor’s and master's degrees in international relations and economics from Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University in Washington, D.C.