CARLSBAD — As a lifelong volunteer, sales and marketing executive Leora Langs became increasingly troubled by the issue of international sex trafficking of women and children. Last April she met John Wood at a Room to Read Chapter Leadership Conference. Wood is a former Microsoft executive who left the company to start the nonprofit after returning from a trip to Nepal, determined to “change the world one book and one child at a time” by setting up libraries in the developing world.
Langs’ path crossed Wood’s years earlier. Her first job after graduating from San Diego State was as director of marketing with the Computer Learning Foundation established by Microsoft founder Bill Gates. The nonprofit uses technology to improve education and prepare youth for success via alliances with businesses, schools and communities.
When Langs learned about Wood’s Room to Read program, and efforts to provide literacy and gender education to women around the globe, she had an epiphany: “Room to Read, the United Nations and several universities have conducted research indicating that in the developing world, 42 percent of girls are not involved in school.
“So I realized that Room to Read is a good investment.
By educating a woman, she’ll educate her child, and the economy will improve which will help reduce sex trafficking and violence toward women and children.”
In September Wood appointed Langs to executive director, Room to Read – San Diego chapter.
Coastal residents can help provide an education to children from developing countries by bringing a book to the Cardiff Beach Bar at Tower 13 restaurant at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 11. The Extravaganza for Education, “Bring a Book, Buy a Book, Give a Book” event is sponsored by Room to Read – San Diego. Each donated book will be put up for sale immediately at the cost of $1.
“If a person brings a book that sells, that dollar will allow us to print a book to give a child in another country,” Langs explained.
Contributions are used to recruit writers and illustrators in developing countries to produce local language books that introduce concepts such as simple math, personal health, family life and beginning vocabulary to children in ways they recognize and can apply in their own lives.
As of 2011, Room to Read is credited with publishing 707 localized books, distributing 11.5 million books, establishing 13,152 libraries, building 1,556 schools, serving 16,879 participants in their Girls’ Education program and a total of 6 million children.
They also offer service learning opportunities for local schools in San Diego and elsewhere as part of their Students Helping Students program.
Christian Gray was introduced to Room to Read several years ago when he was living in Los Angeles.
“I was at a point in my life where I wanted to contribute to the community,” he said. “It resonated because I was relatively young and the focus was on literacy. I helped the L.A. chapter develop a strategic plan and the next thing I knew I was running a local chapter.”
When Gray and his family moved to Carlsbad, he began informally introducing Room to Read by reading John Wood’s children’s book, “Jak the Yak” to students in his children’s classes at La Costa Heights Elementary School.
“The book targets young leaders,” he said. “I showed a PowerPoint demonstration of classrooms in developing countries with no roof or toilet, and libraries with no books. This exposed kids to the world. It was very well received.”
By next spring, Gray hopes to formally introduce Room to Read by establishing a Students Helping Students program and having a representative from the global office address parents.
The Extravaganza for Education, “Bring a Book, Buy a Book, Give a Book” event is organized by Room to Read – San Diego and takes place from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tower 13 is located at 2633 S. Coast Highway 101 in Cardiff.
Cost is $12 for adults and includes soda, beer or wine and appetizers. Kids are free.
For more information, or to make a donation, visit roomtoread.org/sandiego.
Last May, Room to Read earned a four-star rating for the sixth year in a row from Charity Navigator, a distinction that only 3 percent of rated charities have achieved.