I recently traveled to Nepal and spent a day visiting school libraries, where I learned about the impact of the reading and writing instruction and school construction programs in the Dhading District in a village called Sasha. Dhading District is located in the Ganesh mountain range, nearly a three hour drive from Kathmandu on the King Prithivi Highway, which is parallel to the scenic Trishuli River. I traveled with Netra P. Dahal, the program manager, and we visited libraries and a newly renovated school established by Room to Read, a San Francisco-based, non-governmental organization (NGO). Since 2010, the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs has partnered with Room to Read to scale up programs to support children’s book publishing, to establish school libraries, and to advance girl’s education in South Asia, providing $1.88 million in assistance. The support of children’s -- and especially girls’ -- education is a smart and strategic investment. When countries empower girls to pursue their dreams, they realize more fully their social and economic potential.
We first visited Blandir Lower Secondary School, a newly constructed school and children’s library room near the District headquarters. As we entered the school's gate, I listened to Netra explain how they addressed school overcrowding, but my attention was instantly interrupted by a chorus of children. I saw firsthand how the newly constructed school had addressed overcrowding! The spacious classroom resonated with the activity of the students, as they engaged in various hands-on learning assignments. All of the classrooms were now appropriately filled with children writing about what they learned from colorful children’s books or reciting popular Nepali nursery rhymes. Upon entering the adjacent library building, children reading at tables lifted their eyes from the text of their books and welcomed their visitors with a warm and inviting “Namaste” before we crossed the threshold. The library itself was well maintained and included age-appropriate reading material, a subset of the books published and circulated under Room to Read’s Book Publishing program for libraries in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka.
During my visit to a second library at Shree Minduka Secondary School, I met with school administrators. We held a thoughtful conversation, during which it was quite clear that all stakeholders were rallied towards fostering sustainable library spaces that are adequately resourced and promote independent reading for primary school children. Room to Read has been working in collaboration with the government’s District Education Office, and Prayash Nepal, a local NGO, to allocate future resources towards library furniture, teacher training, and quality reading materials to promote early grade learning. They are also working towards integrating the library into the standard school curriculum. As part of the grant model for this project, the community has been enlisted to co-invest in the library projects, which increases the likelihood of their success and long-term sustainability. Furthermore, the teachers are utilizing tools to evaluate children’s progress in reading and writing. These measured gains will pay future dividends in higher educational achievement.
Go to www.usaid.gov/education to learn about how the United States is working to improve reading skills around the world.
About the Author: Thomas C. Holt serves as a Foreign Affairs Officer in the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs.