Give a Book, Change the World

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Foolanthropy 2006 Donations
Charity Amt. Raised
Co-op America $169,425
NFTE $91,341
Rare Conservation $30,047
Room to Read $25,266
Half the Sky $21,350
TOTAL $337,429
As of January 9, 2007
Foolanthropy 2006
Recent Foolanthropy Articles

By Hope Nelson-Pope (TMF Lucky11)
December 21, 2006

I can't remember a time when I couldn't read. I suppose that, as an editor, such a statement comes naturally -- reading is what I do all day, after all. I couldn't imagine a life without books, a childhood without authors like Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume, an adulthood without authors like Ernest Hemingway and David Eggers. Books didn't just give me an educational boost -- they've provided me with a career.

So when presented with the opportunity to give other would-be editors, teachers, or doctors a shot at a hopeful and positive future, what else can I do but jump at the chance?

Before this year's Foolanthropy campaign started, I had never heard of Room to Read. I suspect many of my colleagues hadn't either, despite perusing years' worth of solid nominations. But as soon as our committee began our due diligence and I learned more about Room to Read's mission, I was hooked.

Turns out that the road to a bright future is paved with books. I already knew this, invoking all the old maxims, from "Knowledge is power" on down the line. But Room to Read's mission goes further than just handing a child a book and stopping there. This organization has spread itself into every nook and cranny of the educational ladder, from classrooms to libraries to the books themselves. It doesn't just give a handout; it really does lend a hand in children's development and education in a sustainable, powerful way. And the results speak for themselves.

Since 2000, Room to Read has established nearly 4,000 libraries all over the world. It's built more than 200 schools. It's created scholarships for girls -- an often-overlooked and undereducated segment of the population in many countries -- and created computer and language labs. And since none of these buildings would be complete without something to learn, Room to Read has donated 1.2 million books to fill their empty shelves. And in a Foolish fashion, they've procured most of these at a deep discount from publishers such as Scholastic (Nasdaq: SCHL) and Chronicle Books.

Further, the organization has garnered partnership support from titans such as Google (Nasdaq: GOOG), which has provided a grant, and Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT), which has helped boost Room to Read's "communications infrastruture." Microsoft also acts as a corporate investor in the organization, shoulder to shoulder with the likes of Accenture (NYSE: ACN), ING (NYSE: ING), Credit Suisse (NYSE: CS), and Boeing (NYSE: BA).

I like the transparency that Room to Read offers its donors. Its financials are out in plain sight of the general public, and donors receive intermittent project reports on where their money is going. Such transparency is reassuring -- and necessary.

One of our Foolanthropic tenets is to support charities that offer a sustainable solution rather than a Band-Aid. Room to Read personifies such an approach. In plain terms, this group both offers the fish and teaches children to fish. It's the best of both worlds. I like knowing that the funds raised for this organization go to both the books and the buildings. Books are no good if there's no place to learn how to read them. Libraries and schools aren't effective if there are no teaching tools. Room to Read offers all of this -- and more.

Literacy can change the world. It's a pleasure to watch Room to Read transform the lives -- and future livelihoods -- of children worldwide, one book at a time.

Want to support Room to Read? Click here to learn more -- and contribute!

For more Foolanthropy articles, see "Go Green with Co-op America" and "This Year's Foolanthropy Star: You."

Hope Nelson-Pope is online coordinating editor at The Motley Fool. She owns shares of Microsoft but none of the other companies mentioned here. Microsoft and Accenture are Motley Fool Inside Value recommendations. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.