How books can change children’s lives

Our next group of IWitness Global Citizens is traveling to Bali to visit the incredible projects we fund. Emily Espinosa, a key member of Room to Read’s Grants and Publications Team, is here to touch on the need for our work in Indonesia and the impact we’ve had so far.

Over 750 million people around the world are illiterate – that’s more than double the U.S. population. To make it all the more real, one in four children cannot read a single word or sentence. While access to primary schooling has improved, educational quality is still a critical issue.

In Indonesia, quality children’s books aren’t readily available in many parts of the country and only 46% of primary schools have a library. As a result, reading habits are low with people reading an average of one book per year, compared to South East Asia’s average of three books per year.

Having worked at Room to Read for over four years, I’ve seen for myself how children respond to an engaging curriculum and a library filled with child-friendly books they can relate to. The sheer enthusiasm is impossible to miss. Whether it’s seeing students racing through the library door, darting for their favourite book, or hearing an entire class of second graders share their dreams of becoming teachers, it’s easy to see that a quality education has a profound effect on a child’s life.

Photo by Room to Read

Thanks to our partnership with the IKEA Foundation, we’ve been able to spread this joy of learning to approximately 93,000 children in Bangladesh and Indonesia. Working in the three regions of Indonesia (East Java, Bali and East Nusa Tenggara), Room to Read is training three local NGOs to establish, monitor and sustain 156 school libraries, which will benefit more than 30,000 children.

Local book publishing is also an exciting part of the project, where we’re training five publishing and NGO partners on how to create engaging children’s books that connect with local students. Through this project, at least 480,000 copies of 60 new early grade storybooks will be distributed to Indonesian children.

During our IWitness trip to Bali, we’ll be able to see the impact of these projects firsthand. Bali is such a beautiful, unique island that is near to my heart and I am so excited for the IWitness team members to get to know the Balinese culture and people, and the staff of the amazing partner organisations that we are so lucky to work with.

Photo by Room to Read.

This trip has a unique blend of activities that will make it very special. We are lucky enough to have the opportunity to spend time with some of the Indonesian authors, illustrators and publishers, who helped to produce our gorgeous local language book titles in Indonesia. This is an experience that most supporters never have, and the book publishing component of our work is extremely interesting and fun to learn about.

Additionally, we’ll be visiting the IKEA Foundation-funded schools and learning exactly how our Literacy Programme has transformed these communities, which will surely leave an impression. It’s going to be a memorable week for everyone involved.

We can’t wait to meet the IKEA Sweden co-workers and welcome them into the Room to Read family. See you soon!

Emily Espinosa