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.

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“My youngest boy always asks me to read him a story. He’s grown used to me reading him a story every night before he sleeps. It remind me of when I was a child and my grandmother would tell us stories. “

Shadia, Amman, Jordan

2018 Financials

Worldreader is committed to high financial integrity and transparency. We apply our various resources in innovative and responsible ways to create a world where everyone can be reader.

$12.1 Million

total contributions

$2.8 Million

in-kind donations


cost per reader










Earned Revenue




Total Revenue


Use of funds

Program Services


Management & General




Total Expenses


Support the digital reading movement

a school or preschool

When you sponsor a school or preschool, students will receive e-readers, e-books, and Worldreader’s expertise.

Join with your colleagues and volunteer

Does your workplace have an employee volunteer program? Find out how you and your team can help.

Join the Reading for Opportunity campaign

We’re working towards reaching 10 million more readers by 2020. Will you join us?

A year in thought leadership

This paper demonstrates that publishers in African countries have started to experience the advantages of digital, like learning from data and reaching broader and more diverse audiences across borders.

State of digital publishing report

Leveraging Mobile Technology for Parental Engagement in the Early Years. This Report shows the findings from the Read to Kids India Pilot (2015-2017).

Read to kids pilot report

This report shows the success of LEAP 2.0 and how the national scale-up of project LEAP provided librarians across Kenya the opportunity to put their unique spin on a digital reading project.

LEAP 2.0 final report

National Reading Day in Ghana, launched in partnership with the Ghana Ministry of Education brought together the non-profit, private, and public sectors to promote reading and celebrate reading initiatives across Ghana.

Ghana national reading day

Featured partners

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A year in videos

Worldreader Kids promotional video for caregivers in Jordan

Camfed and Worldreader partner to empower students

Simi talks about reading books on her mobile phone

Famous Ghanaian rap star sings about reading

Our Supporters

Individual and Family Supporters

Multi-Year Support
We are pleased to recognize these forward-thinking donors who have committed multi-year pledges to sustain our growth and impact for years to come.

Epic Pledges
$500,000 – $1,000,000 and above

Chris Capossela and Leigh Toner

Jennifer and David Risher

Kaphan Foundation

Terry Atkinson and Kathy Taylor

Anthology Pledges
$250,000 – $499,999

Kate James and Hans Bishop

Klintworth Family Foundation

Sakurako and Bill Fisher

Novel Pledges
$100,000 – $249,999

Charles and Lorie Brighton

Carolyn Kroll Reidy and Stephen Reidy

Donna and Matthew Bellew

Joel Spiegel and Karen Van Dusen

LJ Ross

Otis and Elizabeth Chandler

Peter and Elisabetta Mallinson Trust

Wilke Family Foundation

Poetry Pledges
$25,000 – $99,999

Adam Bosworth

Colleen and Clyde McQueen

Larry Hitchon and Dana Reid

Lauri and Greg Nakamoto

Maryam Mohit and Erik Blachford

Neil Roseman and Rose Tatlow

Sponsor Pledges
$10,000 – $24,999

JJ Jacobi

Martin and Victoria Nye

Annual Gifts

Worldreader is pleased to recognize these generous donors for gifts supporting our 2018 programs and operations.

Epic Circle
$1,000,000 and above

Cynthia and Steve Hammer

Novel Circle
$100,000 – $249,999

Peter and April Spiro

Poetry Circle
$25,000 – $99,999

Dana Johnson and Mark Nelson

Harrison Miller and Clare McCamy

Lisa and Peter Nitze

Star Soltan and Dillon Lerach

Sue and Duff Sanderson

Thacher Family Philanthropy Fund

Tod and Allison Nielsen

$10,000 – $24,999

Brad and Jan Silverberg

Carol Risher

Craig and Susan Bruya

David Dominguez

Diego Piacentini and Monica Nicoli

James Osborne

Kartik Raghavan

Margaret A Meyer Family Foundation

Mary Case

Pam Fleischer

Sarah Risher

Thomas and Deborah Cole

Viral Patel

$5,000 – $9,999

David Zapolsky and Lynn Hubbard

John and Jessica Fullerton

Neen and Krik Koenigsbauer

Mike Nugent

Van der Wansem Foundation

Cintra Pollock and the Singer Family Foundation

Stephanie and Jim Gamble

The Family of Sibyl Frankenburg and Steve Kessel

Timothy and Jennifer Kingston

Tom Alberg and Judi Beck

$2,500 – $4,999

Dhiren Shah

Hermione and Tobin Ireland

Josh Schweitzer and Mary Sue Milliken

Lindsay and Patti Eberts

Lisa Brummel and Celeste Keaton

Robert Short and Emer Dooley

$1,000 – $2,499

Alan and Vic Caplan

Angela Reynar

Catherine Stocker

Christina Vrachnos

Deborah Yeh and Mark Risher

Elizabeth and Olof Carmel

Frances and Mac Merenda

Gabe Tsuboyama

George and Cherry Snelling

Greg Hart

Greg Linden

Haroula Kosmatos and David Fildes

Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation

Jane and Max Slade

Jodie Jones and Leland Rockoff

Joseph Synk

Juanita Baker

Kevin Phaup

Kim Rachmeler

Michel Roger Goffin

Peter Orth

Richard Ward and Cheryl Capriola

Sean and Heidi Williams

Sherry and Edward Guy

Steve and Heather Murch

Taleb Salhab

Tamra Myers

Walter Baddoo




Amazon UK

Amazon Web Services


Bonfire Media Pty Ltd

Caja de Ingenieros

Cheongna Dalton School

Digital Reality Trust

Ebrolis PR LLC

FMLY Store


Gravy Live

Humble Bundle


IBC Equity Partners

IBM Employee Services Center



McKinsey & Company

Microsoft Corporation

Microsoft Matching Gifts Program

Mobile Jazz





PepsiCo Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa

PepsiCo France

SAGE Publishing

Survey Monkey

TD Ameritrade

Tease and Totes

TisBest Charity Gift Cards

TT Partnership Ltd.

University College School

Zemantics OÜ


AmazonSmile Foundation

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Bright Funds Foundation

Clif Bar Family Foundation

Cotton On Foundation

Google Inc. Employee Giving

Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation

Jane Austen Literacy Foundation

Kismet 805 Foundation

Larry L. Hillblom Foundation

Margaret A Meyer Family Foundation

Matthew E. Russell Foundation

Members Give

Pledgeling Foundation

Promotora Social Mexico

Purpose Portfolio Foundation

HGB Fund

Quest Foundation

R.Y.T.H.M. Foundation

Singer Family Foundation

Stavros Niarchos Foundation

Tableau Foundation

The K Foundation

The Wilbur and Niso Smith Foundation

Featured publishers



Al hudhud

Amazon Publishing

American University Nigeria

Association of Writers and Illustrators for Children (AWIC)


Bispiral, s.r.o.

Bookbyte Digital

Books Go Walkabout

Carus Publishing

Children for Health

Chronicle Books


Daily Dump

Dar al Yasmine

Dar Asala

Dolphin Press

Dorling Kindersley (Penguin Random House)

Duckbill Books

Egmont UK Limited


Fantastic Phonics

Grey Gecko Press, LLC

Grupo Editorial Miguel Ángel Porrúa

Hardie Grant Egmont

HarperCollins UK

Hesperian Health Guides


InfoMarvel Business Solutions Inc.

Iris the Dragon

Jabal Amman

JourneyForth Books

Kalimat Books

Kids Can Press


Little Pickle Press

Longhorn Publishers, PLC

Magic MasterMinds LLC


MME Media

MobilTrain Knowledge Services Pvt. Ltd.

Mountain Top Publishers Ltd.


NALAP (Ghana Ministry of Education)

National Council of Educational Research and Training

New Readers Press (ProLiteracy)


One Moore Book

Open Road Integrated Media

Osu Children’s Library

Penguin Books India (Penguin Random House)

Penguin Random House

Penguin Random House Iberia

Pickle Yolk Books

Prabhat Books

Praski Publishing

Pratham Books

Queen Girls Publications, LLC

Radhakrishna Prakashan

Rajkamal Prakashan

Rimal Books

Rose Petal Press


Sam-Woode Ltd.

Sanjay & Company

Sesame Workshop India

Shepard Publications

Short Story Day Africa

Simon & Schuster

Small Beer Press

Smartline Publishing

Speaking Tiger Publishing Pvt. Ltd.

Sterling Publishers (P) Ltd.

Story Shares


Strategic Book Group Publishers

Studio Brian Communications

The International School of Art, Business, and Technology

The Wilbur and Niso Smith Foundation

Tulika Publishers

Urban Fox Studios

V&S Publishers

Womancraft Publishing


All of this impact has been made possible by dedicated supporters like you. Thank you for helping the world read.

We hope you’ll share these incredible milestones with your friends and family.