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

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

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by John Wood

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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

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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

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.
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From the Publisher
Praise for John Wood and Leaving Microsoft to Change the World

"The bottom line is passion, and it seems the world is better off for John Wood having followed his." - USA Today

"A rare business book that not only provides savvy insights for better business practices but transcends the category altogether, to rank as an infectiously inspiring read...Marked by sincerity and savvy, this is the kind of book that buisiness colleagues will discuss with their acquaintances, spouses and friends." - Publishers Weekly

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

"Wood is obsessed with putting to work the business practices he learned at Microsoft...melding 'the compassion of mother Teresa' with the 'focus and tenacity of a clue chip company.'" - Financial Times

"I haven't cried so much reading a book in a long time. It's very emotional to read about both Wood's own struggles and the stories he tells of his travels. His outlook is wonderfully optimistic." - Tom Peters, coauthor of In Search of Excellence

"John's story is a spellbinding tale of his transformation from Microsoft velociraptor to a new life bringing the amazing gift of literacy to millions of kids around the world." - Marc Andreessen, cofounder Netscape Communications

"If work is the rent you pay for the space you occupy on earth, then Wood's journey into the world of nonproficts is testimony to that old adage. Always inspirational, this book is guaranteed to prompt many readers to open their hearts." - Booklist

"As much about business practices as about personal discovery, this book lives up to its name as it details how the author traded in the executive lifestyle to champion his own nonprofit organization, Room To Read." - School Library Journal

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

Viking Adult
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.36(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.08(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

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

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