John Wood

Putting books into the hands of 6 million children

John Wood is the founder and board chair of Room to Read. He started Room to Read after a career with Microsoft from 1991 to 1999, where he was in charge of marketing and business development teams throughout Asia, including serving as director of business development for the Greater China region and as director of marketing for the Asia-Pacific region.

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Room to Read founder John Wood in Vietnam

Photo by Jenni Morello

Room to Read focuses its efforts on literacy and gender equality in education – two areas that must be attended to if children are going to be able to reach their full potential. “The world starts to change with educated children,” says Room to Read founder and co-chair John Wood.

The organization has so far reached more than 6 million children with its programs, establishing more than 13,000 libraries and some 1,500 schools, according to its website.

It came into existence after Wood, while trekking in Nepal, was invited to visit a school with more than 450 students; “Dirt floors, no desks, no ventilation, no lighting and I thought, you know, this is so sad that this many kids are showing up and, and that they have so little,” Wood says. He was later asked to go see the library.

“I walked in and the room was devoid of desks, chairs, children’s books, there was basically nothing in the room besides the little sign that said ‘library’.”

Wood promised the school’s headmaster he would be back, and a year later returned with 3,000 books. Following what Wood called his “game over moment”, when those Nepalese children discovered books for the first time, he quit Microsoft and Room to Read was born.

The program has since expanded to 10 countries in Asia and Africa, and has put 10 million books into the hands of children.
 
Read Nicholas Kristof's New York Times column about John.

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Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide is not in any way affiliated with or in partnership with the Half the Sky Foundation, a nonprofit organization created in 1998 to enrich the lives and enhance the prospects for orphaned children in China. For more information about the Half the Sky Foundation, visit halfthesky.org.