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Global Literacy Group Seeks Local Support

LARCHMONT, N.Y. -- Ana Sndyer attended the Rally for Reading Luncheon at Larchmont Shore Club Wednesday because her friend and book club buddy Kim Larsen, invited her.

Like many of the 150 attendees, Snyder came to the luncheon to support a friend, but left inspired by the cause of fighting illiteracy and gender inequity in developing countries and ready to get involved.

"I think this is an excellent organization," said Marjorie Goldstein, a Larchmont resident who also attended the luncheon. "It's so important that people get educated, and we sort of take it for granted - the books and schools - in a rich community like this. But these kids have none of this."

Room to Read focuses on two components: literacy and education for girls.

"The girls education program supports girls to attend school, provides female mentoring and helps create a more girl-friendly school environment," said Karen Khor, media relations for Room to Read.

Since 2000, Room to Read has built 12,500 libraries and more than 1,400 schools and provided more than 10,000 scholarships to girls who would otherwise be unable to continue their education.

"Room to Read sees children’s education and literacy as an important way to break out of the cycle of poverty,” said Karen Regan, co-leader of the Westchester chapter.

Like Snyder, Larsen, a Mamaroneck resident, learned about Room to Read from a friend, Carrine Verschueren, co-president of Room to Read's Westchester Chapter, which launched last fall. Larsen is now a  committee member of the literacy-geared non-profit organization. The 501(c)3 organization, founded in 2000, currently has 53 chapters in 16 countries around the world, which contribute one-third of the revenue for their operating budget.

The Westchester Chapter, comprised of 15 members, has been raising awareness mostly through word of mouth, and Wednesday's luncheon was its first opportunity to reach a larger audience.

Carine Verschueren, a Larchmont resident, previously worked with the Tokyo chapter. When she decided to move back to Westchester, John Wood, founder and executive chairman, asked her to start a Westchester chapter. Wednesday, she acted as host to Julie Orringer, author of "The Invisible Bridge," and Erin Ganju, CEO and co-founder of Room to Read, who gave an overview of the organization.

"We are excited to gather such committed spokespeople from the worlds of philanthropy and literature for the common cause of children’s literacy and education in developing countries," Verschueren said.

Ganju said in her presentation that the group is currently helping six million kids and hopes to reach 10 million by 2015.

"We hope that this luncheon will draw Westchester residents who also believe that literacy and education can be an 'invisible bridge,' that pathway out of poverty, for children living in the midst of deprivation," said Verschueren.

For more information on Room to Read, click here .

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