Imagine living in a faraway, mountainous community in the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan. Despite its unbelievable beauty, most people live in rugged, remote communities with poor infrastructure, difficult lives and few educational or economic opportunities. In fact, Bhutan has one of the lowest literacy rates in Asia meaning countless children and adults are left behind, trapped in an unescapable cycle of poverty.

In 2008, READ (Rural Education and Development) Global, a not-for-profit organization based in San Francisco, changed the future by opening their first READ Center, a community library and resource center that teaches people to read. Before READ began working in Bhutan, the country had only one public lending library in the entire country. Today, there are five READ centers reaching over 37,000 rural villagers creating a culture of reading and providing access to information and resources to help farmers, children and women’s empowerment.

I learned about READ Global’s work before I went to Nepal in 2010. I had wanted to give back to the community and through research on different non-profit organizations, I found READ Nepal, a part of READ Global that works to provide literacy services in Nepal. I fundraised enough money to donate $4,000 before I left and was thrilled the money would go towards such an important cause. (I have written about it here).  Experiencing the rugged remoteness of Nepal during a two-trek in the Annapurnas made me see firsthand how incredibly difficult it is for children to learn. Schools are far and few between. I wondered what life would be like if I couldn’t read or write. It was unimaginable.

The statistics regarding illiteracy are heartbreaking:

  • 773.5 million adults are still illiterate around the world.
  • 17% of children in the developing world will not enroll in primary school
  • 39% of South Asia is illiterate.
  • 50% of women in South Asia are illiterate.
  • On average, kids only go through 4.7 years of schooling in South Asia.

In honor of International Literacy Day, READ Global has launch a beautiful three-minute short film featuring a young girl in rural Bhutan.

About the film:

Imagine a country with just one public library. That was Bhutan just 6 years ago. Thinley, a young Bhutanese girl, explains what it’s like to grow up in this extremely remote Himalayan Kingdom without access to education: “My parents are farmers. They don’t know how to read and write.”

But Thinley has hope for the future now that she has learned to read at a READ Center, a library that offers much more than books to rural villagers like Thinley. Today, her goal is to become a teacher when she grows up.

On International Literacy Day, Monday, September 8th, 773.5 million adults are still illiterate around the world.

About READ Global:

READ Global is nonprofit organization working in rural South Asia to build community library and resource centers (READ Centers) that offer training programs in education, economic empowerment, technology, and women’s empowerment. With each Center we seed a small business called a ‘sustaining enterprise’ that generates revenue to maintain the Center in the long run. Our Centers are owned and operated by our local partner communities.

Interested in learning more?

Get updates on global poverty and education on READ’s “Library Log” blog


Interested in helping?
To empower a girl like Thinley this International Literacy Day, visit


  1. Thought-provoking post and touches on a single empowering topic: reading. The doors that can open to those who can read are many. Thanks for the information and link. Educating our youth around the world is critical for their life journeys. Those statistics are staggering.

    1. Thanks Sally. I truly can’t imagine a world where I could not read or write. I read so much and as you know love to right. Knowledge is power and change. It is awful it is denied to so many.

    1. Thank you for the lovely comment. To read and write is a basic human right that I believe everyone should have. It makes me so sad that millions do not have this opportunity. What a crime.

  2. Thank you for the post, Nicole…I posted about International Literacy Day, too, and added the inspiring video from READ Global’s work in Bhutan, after seeing it on your blog. Keep up the great work!

    1. Thank you so much Lola for sharing my post. Your post is excellent and I shared it as well via twitter. I can’t imagine not knowing how to read or write. It is unthinkable really.

  3. Nicole I appreciate the work you do and the awareness you bring. As often happens your stats astound me. Again bringing home how very fortunate we are.

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