Turning Classrooms into Playgrounds with the IKEA Foundation

By Dr. Geetha Murali, Chief Development Officer, Room to Read

Students from Room to Read’s children’s Literacy Program in Bangladesh.

This week marks the start of the holiday season in many countries around the world, a time of year when we are inundated with advertisements for toys and games that will be gifts for lucky children. Regardless of age, we are all inspired by the tradition of giving and the magic of play! However, not every child grows up in circumstances that allow them to play and stimulate their imagination on a regular basis. Children who have been born into communities facing conflict, poverty, or gender discrimination are often not granted the luxury of play to express themselves and develop.

Play is essential, and here at Room to Read we are in the business of inspiring creativity and exploratory learning through literacy for children in low-income communities. We know that libraries filled with colorful books written in local languages that kids speak at home, child-friendly classrooms with teachers trained in interactive and engaging literacy instruction, and governments that promote the habit and skill of reading in their curriculums are the things that world change is made of.

And so today, on Children’s Rights Day, Room to Read is proud to announce its partnership with IKEA Foundation and IKEA’s Let’s Play for Change campaign which will allow us to bring a love of learning and the joy of reading to 93,000 children in Bangladesh and Indonesia.

Children in Bangladesh participating in an active literacy game that teaches reading comprehension.

Through IKEA’s Let’s Play for Change campaign, the IKEA Foundation will donate €1 for every children’s book and toy sold in IKEA stores from November 20 through December 24 to Room to Read and five additional children’s rights organizations. This will allow Room to Read to establish our Literacy Program in a minimum of 181 schools in Bangladesh over 4 years, create and publish at least 24 new children’s book titles and reissue at least 120 of Room to Read’s most popular Bangladeshi titles, printing more than 190,000 copies. In Indonesia, Room to Read will work with three partners across three regions to establish a minimum of 145 school libraries over three years. Concurrently, we will work with the national book publishing association and local partners to develop a minimum of 60 new storybooks for beginning readers. A minimum of seven thousand copies of each title (420,000 total copies) will be distributed to more than 500 school communities. Room to Read will build the capacity of more than 36 local writers and illustrators in Indonesia, fueling the creative process of storytelling.

Girls enjoying reading Room to Read’s local language children’s books in Bangladesh.

We know that an estimated 250 million children are not learning basic reading and math skills, even though half of them have spent at least four years in school. We also know that there is nothing quite as powerful as a great book to stimulate the imagination of a child and transport him or her to a world of exciting characters and places where all dreams are possible. Let’s Play for Change supports Room to Read to transform learning environments for children in early grades, so that they can become lifelong learners and develop both a habit and love of reading. Rather than utilizing rote learning methods that can leave children disengaged, we will train teachers in participatory and active literacy instruction techniques that have been proven effective in improving reading fluency and comprehension rates.

Helping children develop reading habits and skills, with books that pique imagination as well as equipping teachers with instructional strategies and materials that help children to develop strong reading skills as quickly as possible are an essential early step in educational success. Literacy, developed within safe, government supported school and library spaces, makes all other humanistic goals possible. It is the starting point for critical thinking, development of curiosity and the means to resolve questions. Literacy makes education — and the rest of life — more democratic, as it provides the pathway for children to be proactive in their lives and also to defend themselves with knowledge and information. The knowledge that literacy enables extends children’s rights beyond access alone, providing the kind of education that gives children choices, opportunities and tools for creativity and success.
Quality classrooms and libraries become playgrounds for the mind. Together with IKEA and the IKEA Foundation, we are providing thousands of children a place for their minds to play and for them to forge paths towards making their dreams a reality.

Read more about the Let’s Play for Change campaign in our press release.