If you've followed our community's charitable contributions over the years, you know that many of our donations have gone towards education:
While diversification is important, we've obviously been partial to supporting education, and particularly to promoting literacy. Given that ours is a youthful, international online (and, primarily, text-based) community, it could be argued that, symbolically, there's no cause for which we share a greater affinity.
Our most ambitious contributions have served to directly sponsor individual projects, such as the construction of schools or libraries. As you can imagine, it takes time for such projects to reach fruition, but, when they do, the results are always uplifting.
I'm honored to share the launch of one such project with you today.
Back in 2014, NikeTalk contributed $30,000 to Room to Read, with the goal of sponsoring a project in Bangladesh, where an estimated 26% of the population earns less than $2 per day.
Our contribution served to fund the development of a library in the Lakkhipur Kholabaria Government Primary School, located in the Rajshahi region of Bangladesh. Rajshahi is known for its agriculture - and its poverty. Most of the area's 18 million residents work on plantations for substandard wages, and only 53% of the population can read.
Many families withdraw their children from school to help in the fields during harvest season. As elsewhere, female children in particular are often expected to care for younger siblings in their parents' absence, which contributes to gender inequality.
Room to Read currently operates in ten countries: Nepal, Cambodia, Laos, India, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Zambia, Tanzania, South Africa, and Bangladesh. Each country's programs are operated entirely by local staff, and all major projects are requested and co-funded by the communities in which they are based.
Lakkhipur Kholabaria Government Primary School currently serves 236 students from preschool through grade 5. With only five teachers and limited space, sharing is as much a virtue as a necessity.
In the absence of space for a dedicated library, a classroom library has been established to integrate age-appropriate reading materials into each grade's lessons, free time activities, and dedicated library time. In total, Lakkhipur Kholabaria Government Primary School has thus far received 416 original children's books published in house by Room to Read, and additional 163 Bengali books, furniture, and three years of ongoing support.
To ensure the program's continued success, all grade one teachers received ten days of professional development training in phonological awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension. All teachers receive learning materials to support the literacy curriculum, and will continue to receive visits from Room to Read's literacy coaches twice a month.
Teachers responsible for serving as school librarians also receive three days of training in library management (with two day refresher courses in each subsequent year), and regular monitoring visits for the purpose of evaluation and feedback.
We have high hopes for the program, given Room to Read's remarkable track record. Recently published evaluation data from the organization's literacy programs demonstrate a significant improvement in reading fluency. In Bangladesh, first graders in program schools recorded DOUBLE the average words per minute of comparison schools. (13 WPM compared to 6.) Second graders in program schools averaged 36 words per minute, a marked increase over the 24 words per minute averaged by their peers.
Such improvements have proven quite rare among education intervention programs. In their review of 75 similar teacher training programs in low-income nations, Room to Read found only two others capable of achieving the type of impact made by Room to Read in nearly all of its program evaluations.
A child's desire to read is, I would argue, even more important than her measurable reading proficiency. While there is no metric for a child's love of reading, Room to Read has nonetheless attempted to quantify this, if only by proxy, using the number of books students voluntarily check out from program libraries.
As the number of original local language children's titles have increased and the literacy education program has become better tailored by each country, the average number of books checked out per library increased from 944 in 2009 to 2,192 in 2014.
This is our fourth sponsored project with Room to Read, joining the construction of a freestanding school library in Nepal, the reconstruction of a war-ravaged preschool in Sri Lanka, and the publication of an original children's book in South Africa. A fifth project, in Laos, was funded last year and will likely launch within the next twelve months.
Excluding contributions from users and sponsors, we've now donated a total of $139,000 to Room to Read.
In 2014, we held a group fundraiser for Room to Read that generated an additional $16,635 for the organization - all thanks to the contributions of our community members and one especially committed sponsor: @INSTYLESHOES
ISS contributed $2,602 to that fundraiser - after giving $5,723 earlier in 2014 as part of their ongoing pledge to donate 1% of their sales to charity.
Today, as part of that same pledge and to celebrate the completion of this project, I'm pleased to report that Instyleshoes has just contributed an additional $5,000 to Room to Read, bringing their total to
$13,325 and our combined total, including NikeTalk's direct donations, our group fundraiser, and ISS' contributions, to $156,358. I hope you'll join me in thanking them - and ALL of our fellow members - for their continued support.
At heart, the concept of community holds that we are stronger together than we ever could be individually. Thank you for lending your strength to our community, and to the inspiring work performed by organizations like Room to Read. Without you, none of these contributions would be possible. Together, we are making a difference.
Stay tuned for more contribution announcements in the months ahead!