Children discover the magic of reading in Indonesia

Our next group of IWitness Global Citizens is travelling to Surabaya to visit the incredible projects we fund. Cicely Wootan, Room to Read’s North America Development Director, is here to discuss the need for this project in Indonesia and the impact we’ll make.

In Indonesia, culturally-relevant, engaging children’s books aren’t readily available in many parts of the country. Less than half of primary schools have a library, making it more difficult for children to build strong reading habits from an early age.

But the power of reading stretches far beyond the classroom. When young children pair the science of reading with the magic of loving to read, their chances of succeeding in school drastically increase—as do the opportunities that await after graduation day.

Room to Read’s Cicely Wootan meeting the teachers of one of the schools. Photo by Room to Read.

At a global glance, over 750 million people are illiterate. By working in more than 30,000 communities around the world, we’ve seen how illiteracy traps families in a cycle of poverty with limited employment opportunities. Earning 30-40% less than their literate counterparts, those lacking strong reading skills stand at a grave disadvantage. They face a higher risk of experiencing both health problems and crime and are more likely to need financial assistance programmes. Breaking the cycle of illiteracy is truly the key to lifting a family out of poverty within a single generation.

Room to Read’s Cicely Wootan in a school library with some of the pupils. Photo by Room to Read.

Since our founding in 2000, Room to Read has helped 16.6 million children in 16 countries around the world unlock their full potential through education. We publish children’s books in local languages, equip schools with stocked libraries, train educators, and support girls throughout secondary school, giving students the resources they need to thrive.

With more than 17,000 islands and 700 languages in Indonesia, culturally-relevant storybooks and engaging literacy instruction are incredibly important. Our partnership with the IKEA Foundation and ProVisi Education is supporting more than 100 local writers and illustrators in Indonesia to create and publish at least 60 new children’s book titles. We’re also printing 480,000 copies of children’s books and distributing them to more than 500 schools, while establishing 156 school libraries over three years. Following the recent tsunamis in the region these resources will be all the more critical in helping students access quality education during this difficult time.

Room to Read’s Cicely Wootan enjoying a precious moment with one of the pupils. Photo by Room to Read.

Looking at the big picture is undoubtedly inspiring, but what I’m most interested in is connecting with the people who experience our programmes daily. That’s why I’m looking forward to our upcoming IWitness trip to Surabaya.

I can’t wait to embark on this journey with the IWitness team and have no doubt our collective excitement and commitment to the work will remind the students that we are all rooting for them to succeed—not only in school, but in life.

    Cicely Wootan