Is There Room for Just One More?

I just finished reading, “Leaving Microsoft to Change the World” by John Wood.  What a compelling journey!  It is about his life-changing efforts to share the gift of literacy with kids all over the world.  At the beginning of this story, Wood was a high-powered executive for Microsoft in the 1990’s.  Deciding to take a break from his demanding lifestyle, he went on a trek through the Himalayan mountains, he experienced the wonderful opportunity to meet and get to know the people from Nepal.  He was struck by the scarcity of books for the children.  What books they did have were rag-tag used copies of paperbacks.  In Nepal, the illiteracy rate was 70%.  At that time, 850 million people lacked basic literacy, meaning that 1 in 7 persons were lacking the ability to read or write a single sentence.  I’ve seen first-hand the effects of illiteracy in our country.  While waiting for a bus in downtown Harrisburg I encountered two young men who were on work release (they were wearing ankle monitors), and these two young men were unable to read the bus schedule.  They were terrified that they would be unable to get to work on time and then get in trouble.

While John Wood was in Nepal interacting with the people he was told time and time again that the people in Nepal desperately needed and wanted books, and they also wanted to learn to speak English.  The easiest way to solve both needs was to have a book drive in the U.S. and other English-speaking countries.  So John contacted all the people he knew all around the world and organized a book drive.  Books came in from everywhere.  The logistics of transporting these books over such a distance also became a challenge.  So John’s father, who was a Lion’s Club member, contacted the Lions Club in Nepal.  They agreed to be the recipients and to initiate collection and distribution sites throughout Nepal.

Room to Read’s program supports a girl by paying school fees, buying her two uniforms, two pairs of shoes, a book bag and school supplies.  She is also given health insurance, a bicycle (to get back and forth to school), and a mentor.  Surprisingly enough, the cost of this per year is $300.  At this point 16.6 million children have been helped by Room to Read.  Room to Read attempts to educate all children, but their initial focus was on girls because young girls without an education are pushed into marriage at a very early age, and also because girls with an education tend to stay with their families and villages, making a lasting impact.

There are a number of things you can do right here to help education.  One is to donate and drop off school supplies at your local school, contribute to DonorsChoose, which works with schools and teachers all over the country to help facilitate education.

A woman named Taleah Greve set up Embrace Books in West Michigan so that anyone who wanted a book could simply come in and take one.  How easy is that?  You can visit them on Facebook at

Or simply drop off your General Mills Box Tops for Education at your school.  They can be redeemed for school supplies and equipment and the best part is, they cost nothing!

Another great idea is to click on The Literacy  Site   On their site, all you do is click on a button and that provides proceeds  to fund books for children.  I remember when my kids were in elementary school.  Every so often, the school would have RIF day  (Reading is Fundamental).  My kids each got to pick out their very own book.  They would be so excited and so happy.  I still remember their joy.

One other thing you can do is to donate your used books to a local library or literacy center.  Chances are you won’t reread them, and someone else could find use for them.

You are unique.  Share that uniqueness.



“Compassion is the radicalism of our time.”                                                Dalai Lama


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