Book Club Banter

Review of "Creating Room to Read: A story of hope in the battle for global literacy" by John Wood
By Kathy Olsen Adult Services Librarian, Haywood County Library | Mar 19, 2014


In this follow up to "Leaving Microsoft to Change the World," author John Wood writes about his organization Room to Read and how it grew, and is now faring 13 years later.

"Creating Room to Read" is at its heart, a collection of the students’ stories. But it is also interspersed with the narrative in Woods’ own words about lessons learned and the great achievements of this organization. The vision and creativity of Wood and the team he has put together is impressive.

And, the story of what they have accomplished is encouraging and challenging to us all. The book includes the fascinating personal stories of some of the crucial employees who have helped to build the organization.


The level of commitment and passion it has taken for these staffers to get the job done on behalf of the children they serve is evident in all their stories. "Creating Room to Read" is also a recap of the organizations efforts to evolve and embrace change as it grows (according to the statistics on their website, they have opened up 15,000 school libraries in Africa and Asia!), in a changing economic environment.

The reader will appreciate the fact that Wood recounts experiences that did not go so well (i.e. the start-up year in South Africa.) and his truthfulness in addressing these issues lends credibility to the book.


What will stay with you most are the touching personal stories of the kids (and families) whose lives are being forever transformed by a chance to become educated. Even though we are reminded that one single individual can’t solve all the world’s problems, it is equally true that an inspiring leader can change the lives of millions.

And by giving to Room to Read you can participate in this change. A quote from Melinda Gates found on their website sums it up beautifully, “'Creating Room to Read' is a refreshing reminder of the power of libraries — their ability to transform individual lives and strengthen communities.”

Discussion Questions:

1) Isn’t it interesting that John Wood left a career at Microsoft to start “Creating Room to Read," which focuses on print based books? Is it curious to you that he did not focus on exploring ways to tap into the digital revolution in fostering education in rural areas?



2) What did you like (or not like) about his writing style?


3) In a chapter near the end of the book, Wood asks “Whose version of the future will win?”

What do you think are the competing ‘versions?'




Check out Room to Read’s website for more information:

Brought to you by Haywood County Library and Blue Ridge Books.