Changing Children's Lives, One Book at a Time

Young readers learn to love books thanks to a generous donation, CBS News Correspondent Seth Doane reports July 9, 2010.
His drawings poured out on paper.

"Drawing makes me enjoy that kid in me," Mehul Navodit says.

Her stories filled diaries.

"When I write on my own... It's my soul which is giving out," Manju Gupta says.

Then the once private passions of author Manju Gupta and illustrator Mehul Navodit met on the pages of a children's book, published by "Room to Read."

This nonprofit is nurturing new literary talent in the developing world and has printed more than 400 original books in 22 languages, reports CBS News correspondent Seth Doane in New Delhi.

"I try to read in English," 10-year-old Surav Kumar tells Doane, "but Hindi is much easier for me."

You can see they're reading Mehul and Manju's book in a school library in Delhi. After all, the primary purpose behind "Room to Read" was not to develop local talent -- but to establish libraries in the developing world.

It's an idea that was sparked a decade ago when John Wood - then a Microsoft executive - was on vacation in Nepal. He was stunned to find a school library without a single children's book.

"And I asked the headmaster, 'what's the deal? Why is the library empty?' And he said, 'we are too poor to afford education.. And until we have an education - we will always be poor,'" Wood said.

That realization led Wood to leave his job to start "Room to Read," which is establishing a new library every four hours - 10,000 so far.

The project is now also nurturing local literary talent - like Manju, a former school principal.

She translated one book and wrote another about a turban that goes on an adventure.

"My potential has been made use of for the right purpose. It's the best thing," she says.

And Mehul got his first chance to share his work too.

"To see your work got published, you feel a lot of confidence - like what you are doing is actually good," Mehul says.

"There has been a global movement against slavery; there is a global movement against malaria. I think we need to have a global movement to say every single child deserves a chance to learn to read," Wood says.

It's John Wood's vision, Manju's words and Mehul's pictures together - filling the pages of a book and the minds of the another generation.