2018 Annual Report


one reader at a time

Why reading matters


617 million

children are not learning at a minimum
reading level

Illiterate people earn on average


less than their literate

A child born to a literate mother is


more likely to live past the
age of 5

“The e-reader story has been very inspiring to our users. As I travel across the country, I have interacted with children, and I have seen the motivation and the inspiration in them.”

Richard Atuti, Director of the Kenya National Library Service


Dear friends, supporters, and partners:

A billion readers? You’re probably wondering how we’ll get there. So let’s pause for a moment.

Now, visualize a hockey stick.  

Imagine its shape, size, and how it’s used. Maybe you’re thinking of an arena; maybe you’re remembering your childhood skating on a frozen pond; maybe you’re hearing the crunch of players colliding on the ice, or the roar of a crowd. And, apologies to the football/soccer fans among us. To you, maybe hockey is just some rare sport played in the frigid north.

Whatever you’re imagining – hold that thought. We’ll return to the hockey stick in a moment.

In the meantime, let’s reflect on some of Worldreader’s accomplishments in 2018 and take a glimpse at what’s ahead. Thanks to you, in 2018 we helped an additional three million people read, bringing the power of reading to more than 10 million individuals, who’ve read more than 100 million hours in 52 languages! We are expanding our programming across the global south in Africa, India, Jordan, and Mexico, while starting new programming in Peru.

Behind these numbers are the lives of real people and their triumphs: Isis, a teacher in Mexico, helps her young-adult learners discover new worlds by reading to them from her mobile phone. Meanwhile, Mayada, a Syrian refugee in Jordan, bonds with her children, helping them heal from the trauma of war, by reading stories from the Worldreader Kids app. In India, Alka uses digital stories with complementary lessons to educate early learners in her primary classroom.

We should all be proud of our role in helping these readers, yet humbled by the millions more still to reach. Reaching these readers requires new thinking, rather than feeling intimidated by the enormity of the issue.

It requires a hockey stick – that is, a way to take the number of people we help and change the slope of the curve so that it skyrockets up and to the right – reaching tens of millions of people every year, rather than mere millions.

So we’ve spent the last year looking inward and outward – at our strengths as an organization and the needs of our potential readers. We’ve thought a lot about how to build a sustainable model so that we can help more people read, at ever-lower costs, reaching a billion more quickly.

We’ve staffed up with an exceptional executive team, offering leadership in programming, fundraising, communications, operations, and finance.

And we’ve tuned up our operations based on this strategy:

Worldreader will provide affordable state-of-the-art technology, appropriate for under-resourced communities.

Worldreader will provide quality books and complementary content focusing on relevant content from local publishers in the regions where we work, including audio books, special collections, and the like.

Worldreader will focus on curation. Building on our current catalog of 35,000 digital titles, we will design standard collections around reading levels, grades, language needs, and themes. We will then work with teachers and partners to develop custom collections, and donors to fund the expansion of our offerings.

Worldreader will collect reading data to provide insights. Our software tracks which devices are being used, when and how much reading is happening, and what books are popular. We will share data about reading frequency and levels with our education and publishing partners while ensuring our readers’ privacy.

Worldreader will provide savings. In most low-income countries, school budgets typically provide four-five books at a cost of $30 per student/year. Worldreader can provide 150 digital books including an e-reader at a cost of $1 per student/month.

Worldreader believes that sustainable impact comes from sharing costs and responsibilities and ultimately ownership. We will ask donors to support the development and continuous improvement of our content library, software, and data analytics resources. For our implementing partners, we will offer below market rates, while asking them to dedicate their resources towards supporting the program.       

With your support, we’ve begun implementing this strategy in 2019, and it shows great promise. In fact, if we’re successful, a few years from now we’ll be able to graph the number of people that you’ve helped us support, and it will look like . . .

A hockey stick.

Every child and every adult deserves the opportunity to read – for education, economic opportunity, better health, gender equality, and just for fun.  

Thank you for helping the world read.

David Risher
CEO & Co-Founder, Worldreader

Colin McElwee
Co-Founder, Worldreader

Our readers around the world

Meet our readers. Explore our regions. 

In 2018, Worldreader supported programming in schools and libraries in five regions, while readers across 49 countries benefited from Worldreader’s digital library.

Duncan, Kenya

A young man in Kenya accesses the Worldreader library via e-readers in his local library.

Digital books can deliver empowering content that challenges gender stereotypes and helps tackle gender inequality.
19-year-old Duncan is from Kenya. He comes from a community where gender inequality and gender stereotypes about a women’s role in society continue to hold women and girls back from reaching their full potential.

Duncan, who goes to the community library every day to read, doesn’t believe in these stereotypes. His favorite book, The River and the Source by Margaret A. Ogola, teaches him otherwise. The book, which tells the story of a girl from his community, portrays women in non-traditional roles. It tackles themes related to marriage, education, motherhood, and leadership, depicting women and girls as important members of society.

“The book taught me that we should not look down on our sisters,” says Duncan.

Duncan is able to access this content thanks to Worldreader’s LEAP project which brought e-readers filled with books to 61 libraries across Kenya – Duncan’s community library was one of those libraries. Duncan’s exposure to these empowering ideas is helping to rewrite gender norms.

East Africa

Over the years, we’ve worked in dozens of schools and libraries across East Africa. We’ve also had millions of readers access our library via their mobile phones in this region.

Our LEAP project brought digital reading to all 61 public libraries in Kenya. Our Anasoma pilot project was the first of our dedicated efforts to leverage digital reading to empower women and girls.

Our LOCAL project – which we are also implementing in West Africa – is bringing local language books to 20 libraries across Uganda and Zambia, helping to create an environment in which more children can learn in their mother-tongue language.

Mr. Anani, Ghana

A primary school teacher in Ghana uses textbooks from the Worldreader library in his classroom via e-readers.

Digital textbooks give teachers and students access to all the learnings required to achieve success in school.

Mr. Anani is a teacher at Asuom-Amanfrom District Assembly Primary School in Ghana. He teaches religious and moral education (RME) to his young students.

Mr. Anani loves his job but it hasn’t been easy. For the last 10 years, the school hasn’t had any RME textbooks. This has made it very difficult for Mr. Anani to give his students the best learning experience possible.

As part of our Ghana District Scale project, Mr. Anani’s school is one of over 40 schools in the district that have received e-readers filled with digital books.

Now, Mr. Anani and his students have RME textbooks to use in class. Students are finally able to make sense of the complex topics and values that Mr. Anani so devotedly wishes to impart to them.

West Africa

West Africa is where it all started. From the very beginning, West Africa has been one of the most important regions for the experimentation, innovation, and expansion of Worldreader projects.

Each of our projects is unique in its objectives  – whether it is tackling issues around scale, data or gender equality.

Ghana District Scale is scaling digital reading to all 90 public schools within the Kwaebibirem Municipality. Worldreader Student is an app that uses data insights to give students an optimized reading experience, while incentivizing them to keep reading. Inspire Us leverages mobile technology and literature to redefine gender stereotypes and boost women’s empowerment.

Ms. Alka, India

A primary school teacher in Delhi uses our Worldreader Kids app in her classroom via a tablet.

Digital storybooks with complementary activities help primary teachers improve early grade learning and student participation.

Ms. Alka walks inside her classroom greeting all of the children one by one. As Ms. Alka tells her students about the story that she is going to narrate today, they all jump with excitement.

The stories on the tablet are not only entertaining, they are also carefully curated and come with lesson plans mapped to learning outcomes. This helps Ms. Alka confidently support her students’ learning.

Going beyond the classroom, Ms. Alka and Ms Anju (the principal of the school) regularly meet the parents. Parents are shown how to access our library via their mobile phones and told about the importance of regularly reading to their children.

This multi-pronged approach ensures that these young students from the most impoverished communities are being given the best chance to succeed.


Our work in India focuses on early childhood education. In close collaboration with the Central Institute of Educational Technologies and local NGOs, we pioneered the innovative Read to Kids program.

The program brings a reading app with a rich collection of digital storybooks to parents via their mobile phones, so they can read with their children. Having seen encouraging results in the communities, we are now expanding into primary schools and public daycare centres.

Teachers are using our reading app on tablets to improve learning outcomes among young students. Our work in India has already reached over 200,000 families.

Mayada, Jordan

A Syrian mother in Jordan uses our Worldreader Kids app in her home via her mobile phone.

Digital reading can bring comfort to children in distress through empowering stories and family bonding.

Mayada is the proud mother of four girls. When the war in Syria threatened their safety, Mayada and her family fled to Jordan to find refuge. It’s taken Mayada’s daughters time to adjust to their new lives in Jordan.

To help one of her daughters overcome her low self-esteem, Mayada reads to her. She reads stories like The Birds Words by Helen Patuck. The story is about a little girl who, with the support of her teacher, learns to feel at home in a new place.

Reading books to her daughters via the Worldreader Kids app has helped Mayada’s daughter believe in herself and has brought the whole family closer together.

Middle east

Our work in Jordan aims to support the educational and emotional growth of children impacted by the Syrian refugee crisis. Worldreader officially launched Worldreader Kids (Tuta Tuta) in August 2018.

The project encourages and enables vulnerable Jordanian and refugee caregivers to support their children’s learning and strengthen the bond between caregiver and child by reading to them via the free Worldreader Kids mobile app.

The app contains a wide collection of high-quality Arabic stories for children aged 0-12 as well as a sub-collection of English titles.

By combining direct work in communities through our local implementation partners with a widespread digital awareness campaign, the project has already reached over 50,000 families.

Ms. Isis, Mexico

A teacher in Mexico uses our Avanzalee app in the classroom via her mobile phone

Digital books can introduce young adults to literature that will ignite their passions for reading, helping them become lifelong learners.

Ms. Isis is a teacher from Guerrero – located 200 miles south of Mexico City, it’s one of the country’s poorest and most violent states.

Today she lives in Mexico City and teaches at a public high school.

Ms. Isis understands how crucial it is to prepare her students for success later in life. Unfortunately, most of Ms. Isis’ students don’t read – not because they can’t read, but because they haven’t discovered their love for reading.

Ms. Isis works tirelessly to create a culture of reading in the classroom, but until recently students were mainly exposed to textbooks, which made it very difficult to ignite their interest in reading. With the Avanzalee app for mobile phones, Ms. Isis and her students have started reading literature that spans far beyond the coursework, inspiring them to discover new worlds.

Latin America

In Mexico, our Avanzalee project targets Mexican youth with the aim of fostering a love of reading. As part of the project, we work with local organizations and schools to deliver high-quality and relevant content to these young adults. We also provide trainings to teachers so they can best incorporate the literature into their lesson plans.

In Peru, our recently launched Crecelee project targets children in grades one to three with the aim of instilling reading habits from a young age. The project will reach 50 schools and 10,000 households over five years. The project will leverage Worldreader’s digital library on tablets and mobile phones to help teachers and parents read with young children.

Our approach

We support readers around the world with Worldreader apps and programming. Our approach is built on a foundation of these elements.


We reach readers with a digital library via affordable state-of-the-art devices such as e-readers, tablets, and mobile phones.


We deliver relevant, dynamic content with agility to our readers through acquisition, enrichment, and curation services.


We join forces with partners to make a bigger difference. Our partners range from NGOs and publishers to corporations and foundations.

Local capacity

We train schools, libraries, and families to help them get the most out of our reading programs.


We use data insights to improve our collections, improve educational outcomes, and create a better reading experience for our readers.