Room to Read: Bringing in change through education

Sourav Banerjee, country director for Room to Read. Photo: Pradeep Gaur

New Delhi: A team of 600 people spread across nine states. One vision that binds them together—bringing quality to education. Room to Read, a non-profit for children’s literacy and girls’ education with a presence across Asia and Africa, believes that to bring change in the world, it is important to educate children.

The organization says the quality of education imparted in India’s government-run schools is sub-standard. So, the team has taken the onus to raise standards, through two different initiatives: Literacy in Primary School (raising early readers into lifelong learners), and Girls’ Education in Secondary School (keeping girls in school so they can reach their potential).

As part of the Literacy in Primary School programme, the team works through the day, even during summer vacations, to train teachers to develop a reading habit in children. This team mostly comprises graduates with a bachelor’s degree in education (B.Ed).

The beginning is always difficult, especially in a country that is grappling with teacher shortages in schools. Convincing teachers to pay extra attention to a child to inculcate the habit of reading in libraries is a tough task. However, experience says that visible change is the biggest motivator—for school teachers and field workers.

“If a child knows how to read and write, the child self-studies a lot and hence the teacher spends less time on the child. The teacher has a long-term benefits,” said Sourav Banerjee, country director for Room to Read.

Room to Read helps set up libraries in schools and then monitors the number of books children get issued from them. The organization uses an assessment tool to test the reading abilities of students and to monitor if the students are actually reading the books that get issued by the library.

The assessment report is in turn used to gauge the performance of the organization’s employees.

The team that works on the Girls’ Education in Secondary School programme comprise counsellors who impart life skills to girl students in Classes VI-XII and motivate them to complete their education and not drop out.

Started in 2013, the programme has already covered 8,000 government schools across nine Indian states. It works closely with the state governments to shortlist schools. At any given point of time, the organization works with 1,500-2,000 schools across the country.

Room to Read also has employee engagement policies in place. In order to strengthen the professional relationship between a manager and subordinates, the company conducts one-to-one interactive sessions wherein employees are encouraged to share feedback and discuss their concerns to help improve their productivity. The organization has an attrition rate as low as 11%.