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Can You Read This? Nearly 780 Million People Around the World Cannot

Right now 780 million people on this planet can’t read. Two-thirds of them are women and girls. Imagine not being able to send an e-mail or a text, fill out a form or get around on your own because you can’t read a map or directions. 

Being able to read and write is the quickest and most efficient way to improve the world we live in today. It means you’re able to look after your health, understand and fight gender inequality, help protect the environment and take an active role in society. However, there are many obstacles that stand in the way of a literate world.

Read More: This 9-year-old Girl Inspires Others After Opening "Street Library" In India 

One of the greatest challenges to getting children reading in developing countries is a lack of children's books in the local language.

Room to Read quickly discovered that children’s books are extremely limited or non-existent in the countries they work in and responded to this need with an innovative solution: going into the publishing business themselves! Since entering the publishing game, Room to Read has published more than 1,295 titles. All books are produced in the countries that they work and support the local publishing industry.

Room to Read founder John Wood often jokes that Room to Read is the biggest children’s publisher you’ve never heard of: “This is because you and your children probably are not reading in the languages that we’re publishing in. But, those children in Vietnam, Sri Lanka, India, Nepal, South Africa, they deserve to have books in their mother tongue, too.”

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Most of those books are published in overlooked languages — Lao, Hindi, Tamil, Afrikaans, SeSotho, Kiswahili, Chinayanja and 20 others. 

Quang and Lien are two young Vietnamese authors whose talent Room to Read helped develop through their workshops. Last year Quang and Lien took their careers a step further by entering a competitive Scholastic Asia contest for which they created a children’s book in just two weeks and won first place! 

Room to Read’s local language books have consistently been recognised over the years for their superior quality, having received several national book awards, industry praise and even the UNESCO 2011 Confucius Prize for Literacy. 

Fighting illiteracy is key to breaking the cycle of poverty. This International Literacy Day, it's time to ensure that no child is denied the chance to read, learn and build a better future for themselves.  

Find out more about Room to Read  here.