Creating Room to Read: A Story of Hope in the Battle for Global Literacy

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The inspirational story of a former Microsoft executive’s quest to build libraries around the world and share the love of books

What’s happened since John Wood left Microsoft to change the world? Just ask six million kids in the poorest regions of Asia and Africa. In 1999, at the age of thirty-five, Wood quit a lucrative career to found the nonprofit Room to Read. Described by the San Francisco Chronicle as “the Andrew Carnegie of the developing world,” he strived to bring the ...

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Creating Room to Read: A Story of Hope in the Battle for Global Literacy

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The inspirational story of a former Microsoft executive’s quest to build libraries around the world and share the love of books

What’s happened since John Wood left Microsoft to change the world? Just ask six million kids in the poorest regions of Asia and Africa. In 1999, at the age of thirty-five, Wood quit a lucrative career to found the nonprofit Room to Read. Described by the San Francisco Chronicle as “the Andrew Carnegie of the developing world,” he strived to bring the lessons of the corporate world to the nonprofit sector—and succeeded spectacularly.

In his acclaimed first book, Leaving Microsoft to Change the World, Wood explained his vision and the story of his start-up. Now, he tackles the organization’s next steps and its latest challenges—from managing expansion to raising money in a collapsing economy to publishing books for children who literally have no books in their native language. At its heart, Creating Room to Read shares moving stories of the people Room to Read works to help: impoverished children whose schools and villages have been swept away by war or natural disaster and girls whose educations would otherwise be ignored.

People at the highest levels of finance, government, and philanthropy will embrace the opportunity to learn Wood’s inspiring business model and blueprint for doing good. And general readers will love Creating Room to Read for its spellbinding story of one man’s mission to put books within every child’s reach.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

For most of us, global literacy is a noble goal. For John Wood, it became a life mission. In 1999, he left his lucrative job at Microsoft to bring books and reading to places where they had rarely gone before. To date, his success has been nothing less than dizzying: His Room to Red nonprofit organization will open 10,000 school libraries within the next decade, provided 17,000 scholarships for women, published more than 700 books in regional languages, and partnered with local communities on two continents to create schools. In Creating Room to Read, he shares his incredible story and provides ways that we can all help to bring the good news to new places.

From the Publisher
“[John Wood’s] extraordinary enthusiasm [and] boldness…come through clearly. His legacy of libraries is one of which another role model – Andrew Carnegie – would no doubt have been proud, especially since Wood began with nothing like the same personal fortune.”
Financial Times

“Room to Read will show people they do not need to accept the forces of darkness….May the larger, smarter, more compassionate team win. I know which side will get my investment.”
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

“John Wood is building a global movement around literacy and gender equality. Creating Room to Read offers a blueprint for transforming lives…and eventually the world.”
—Sheryl Sandberg, COO, Facebook and author of Lean In

“A refreshing reminder of the power of libraries—their ability to transform individual lives and strengthen communities.”
—Melinda Gates

“An absorbing personal account of a remarkable achievement.”
Kirkus Reviews

“Wood’s passion for literacy and education infuses every page. An inspiring read on the power of books.”

"Just think what would happen if a couple hundred people followed his example."
—President Bill Clinton

"One of the legendary triumphs of philanthropy was Andrew Carnegie's construction of more than 2,500 libraries. Numerically, it has already been surpassed several times over by an American man you've probably never heard of. Wood is tireless, enthusiastic and emotional: a motivational speaker with no off button."
—Nick Kristof

Publishers Weekly
A well-intentioned but ultimately self-serving follow-up memoir from the author of Leaving Microsoft To Change The World. At the age of 35, Wood left his executive job at Microsoft to start "Room to Read," a startup charity dedicated to partnering with local communities to bring books to impoverished children all over the globe. From the first five libraries in rural Nepal to the opening of its 10,000th in the book's opening scene, the organization quickly became one of the fastest-growing and most lauded charities of the last decade. The story runs through the birth of Room to Read, his break when on Oprah while flogging his first book, the growth of the ambitious goal to bring literacy to every child in the world, expansion to Africa, growing pains, and the swift growth of the company's reach. Wood is admirably committed to the importance of education in alleviating global poverty, and his stories of children determined against all odds to learn are inspiring, but there's simply not enough here beyond a lukewarm, feel-good tale.
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Library Journal
In what sometimes seems like a post-book world, it is easy for technologically savvy readers to forget that many people lack basic literacy and have no access to books (regardless of format) at all. Wood (founder, Room To Read; Leaving Microsoft To Change the World) looks back at the work of his literacy organization, on the opening of the 10,000th library it helped build in Southeast Asia and Africa. The Room To Read program is based on a challenge-grant model that works with local communities to build support for individual projects. Room To Read does not define itself as a charity; monies given are investments, not donations. The organization has expanded to include teacher training, education programs for girls (who make up two-thirds of the world's illiterate population), and book publishing in local languages. Wood traces the philosophy and growth of the organization and tells the stories of the people in these communities. VERDICT Inspiring and heartfelt, this will remind readers that books and reading remain a powerful tool for change. Wood's story shows how even the most intractable problems have solutions when people work together.—Nancy Almand, Fresno City Coll. Lib., CA
Kirkus Reviews
How one man's vision of making books available to every child has changed the lives of millions. In 1999, at the height of the tech boom, Wood (Leaving Microsoft to Change the World: An Entrepreneur's Odyssey to Educate the World's Children, 2006, etc.) gave up the executive fast track at Microsoft to pursue "the quest for global literacy." His success--the opening of 10,000 school libraries across the globe within the next decade--exceeded his optimistic expectations. Room to Read, the organization that he founded, has published more than 700 children's books in local languages, expanded globally into 10 countries in Asia and Africa, partnered with local communities to build new schools and provided 17,000 scholarships for women. This moving account of the way the program has impacted the lives of children is only one part of Wood's important story. The author explains how he applied lessons learned in the corporate world to running a successful nonprofit, describing Room to Read's commitment to maintaining low overhead and accountability. Opening the first school libraries (filled with donated English-language books) revealed the need for simple children's books in local languages, and this led to the publishing venture. Similarly, the organization addressed the special problems faced by young girls who wanted an education. In every instance, local communities were challenged to partner in the venture. Wood explains how he is achieving his goal of being "one of many leaders of a global movement," and he pays special tribute to Nelson Mandela's understanding of how encouraging "a profound and deep love" for reading can be a transformative social force. An absorbing personal account of a remarkable achievement.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780142180501
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 1/28/2014
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 444,893
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

John Wood

John Wood worked for Microsoft for nine years, helping grow the company’s international profile. He resigned at thirty-five and founded Room to Read, which is widely regarded as one of the world’s top nonprofit organizations. He documented his decision and the creation of Room to Read in his memoir, Leaving Microsoft to Change the World. He lives in New York City.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 4 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 10, 2013

    Ten years go, John Wood embarked on a courageous journey. He lef

    Ten years go, John Wood embarked on a courageous journey. He left his job at Microsoft for one simple reason: so that "children everywhere have access to literacy and books in their mother tongue from a young age." Sound audacious to you? It did to Charlie Rose as well. "Every child," Charlie repeated in an interview with John. "Every one, without exception," John said.

    It is that kind of resolve, focus, and elegant vision that I find so exhilarating and inspiring. As a nonprofit founder, fundraiser, and a consultant who works with a number of nonprofits, I also know how hard it is to identify and maintain. John will not be deterred. It is his commitment to the children of this world that has allowed Room to Read, his nonprofit, to open 10,000 libraries around the world in 10 years. 10,000. It is astonishing.

    In 2007, John wrote the book Leaving Microsoft to Change the World: An Entrepreneur's Odyssey to Educate the World's Children. Today, his new book, Creating Room to Read: A Story of Hope in the Battle for Global Literacy, goes on sale. It has valuable information for everyone who has ever cared about a cause or mission, for-profit, non-profit, or otherwise. It's a story about the value of a dream and the determination to make it real. John talks about his all-star team, their site evaluation process, and what it truly means to work side-by-side with people you want to help in pursuit of a common goal. In equal parts, he gets down into the details about his fundraising and management philosophies and then shares his powerful emotions such as his misty-eyed moment when the 10,000th library opened in Nepal with his parents by his side.

    John's story is inspiring for all of the goodness he conveys though he is not shy about the hardships he, his staff, and the communities face. Global literacy is a battle in every sense. Moving into Africa was a particularly harrowing decision and an even more harrowing process. His team literally risked their lives to make it happen. In countries like Cambodia, 43% of grade-three students in his country could not read at an age-appropriate level. Statistics like this led Room to Read's mission and activities to evolve. It wasn't enough to build libraries and furnish them with books. First, they had to teach people to read. Without literacy programs, the libraries would be of zero value to half the population.

    Once I cracked open this book, I couldn't put it down. Nose pressed against the pages, I would look up and realize that hours had gone by. After a while, I stopped using my highlighter because I was highlighting every sentence. John Wood and Room to Read are paving the way toward a brighter future. Thank goodness he left Microsoft to change the world. With this book, I'm certain he will inspire many people to take up a cause that matters and make it their life's work. And we will all be better off for it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 6, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    An interesting and inspiring infomercial.  Make sure to read his

    An interesting and inspiring infomercial.  Make sure to read his first book, and come back to this one if you have the time.

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  • Posted February 8, 2013

    "Creating Room To Read" chronicles John Wood's journey

    "Creating Room To Read" chronicles John Wood's journey with Room to Read. He shares his life and the stories of various children. He also shares his vision and desire for every child to be able to read and have books. Thus, promoting global literacy.

    I am inspired by his heart, devotion and sacrifice. I truly believe he and his team at Room To Read are doing an amazing job in changing the lives of so many children worldwide.

    "Creating Room To Read" will motivate you to want to make a difference.

    I challenge you to read this book, it is life changing.

    In conclusion, I want to thank Viking Penguin for sending me a complimentary copy of this book to review.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 4, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

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