Worldreader is a US and European non-profit whose mission is to make digital books available to children and their families in the developing world, so millions of people can improve their lives. As of February 2013, we’ve put over 441,000 e-books - and the life-changing, power-creating ideas contained within them – into the hands of 3,000 children in sub-Saharan Africa. Those children now read more, read better, and are improving their communities.
In addition, through Worldreader Mobile more than half a million people are reading a wide variety of books including educational material, health tips, love stories, prize winning short stories, children’s books, classics, and more– all on a device they already own: their mobile phone.
A World Without Books
Literacy is a critical driver of prosperity (OECD International Adult Literacy Survey 1994-98), and reading inspires and empowers. Yet in much of the world, people have access to a vanishingly small range of books. Fifty percent of schools in sub-Saharan Africa have few or no books (SACMEQ II), slowing learning and societal advancement. And imagine what children miss if they never discover a favorite book about dinosaurs or space exploration. Worldreader combines new technologies, the mobile phone networks, and declining costs to provide immediate access to hundreds of thousands of local textbooks, storybooks, and international literature.
We’re donor-funded, partner-supported, and people-empowering. We work with sponsoring organizations to close the gap between the cost of devices and books and the price local communities can pay, until costs become more affordable. Funding also allows our organization to develop and digitize local books, as well as manage logistics and support in the developing world, in partnership with local governments, school systems, and related businesses.
Worldreader builds capacity in the communities where we work, providing technical and pedagogical training for project managers and local teachers. We even help local businesses repair e-readers, just as they repair cell phones. And we will declare success if we have not only improved reading rates and demand for books, but also have helped create a sustainable ecosystem to support reading in developing communities.
Local Books Mean Kids Read More
Many of the books in our programs are from African publishers and authors. When students begin to read, they are more engaged when the stories in their books are familiar to them. In addition, local schools prefer to work with local textbooks. We partner with African publishing partners to make their books available to children in our e-reader programs, and to everyone through Worldreader Mobile.
At the same time, the literature of the world is of immense interest to children everywhere. Our international publishing partners make their books available at no cost, exposing children and families everywhere to some of the best-known literature in the world.
As of February 2013, Worldreader has distributed over 441,000 digital books to children and teachers across ten e-reader projects in five African countries. Our iREAD project launched in Ghana in November 2010 as the first pilot study involving the classroom use of e-readers in the developing world. Independent monitoring and evaluation, funded by USAID, has revealed that primary school students receiving e-readers as part of iREAD have shown marked improvement on their English test scores. The iREAD concept note and subsequent reports are available on our Learnings page.
Prior to iREAD, we conducted smaller trials in nearby Ayenyah, Ghana, where the project continues to make digital books available at the OrphanAid Africa community center.
More recently, we partnered with two charitable organizations to bring Worldreader programs to The Osborne Memorial Library in Maai Mahiu, Kenya, and the Upendo School in Tanzania. If you would like to help the children in a developing-world community fall in love with reading, you can learn more about how to bring Worldreader to your classroom.
Worldreader continues to explore new ways to bring books to all. With Worldreader Mobile, people can now read our digital books on a low-end cellular phones. Worldreader Mobile attracts over 500,000 readers a month from all over the world, (especially from Sub-Saharan Africa and India) who read close to 20 million pages each month.
Measuring our Success
In our e-readers programs, we gauge our impact through extensive monitoring and evaluation activities, which measure the number of books read before and after deployment, students’ reading ability, as well as own ability to provide delivery and support. Longer-term, we hope to see increased community involvement in reading, and ultimately, increased literacy rates beyond UN-predicted levels. We continue to conduct research within our programs, the results of which are published on our Learnings page.
Help kids and their families become book lovers by bringing Worldreader to new classrooms, spreading the word, donating, or holding a fundraiser. Donations go toward buying e-readers and e-books and building programs that gets kids to read more. And if you are a publisher or author, donate your books and stories to our programs.
We help publishers and authors digitize books. | Browse our collection.
Watch it working
Sarah, a teacher in Ghana, describes the wonderful effects of e-readers on her students’ reading abilities.