History & Mission
Since 2010, we have reached millions of readers in more than 100 countries. We plan to continue supporting millions more.
Our values guide us as we work to help readers build a better world.
We are courageous, experimental, and determined in our quest to support readers so they can build a better world.
We hire and invest in smart and tenacious people who are committed to our mission and a fun, inclusive work environment.
We look to the communities we serve to continuously improve our programs and strengthen our partnerships.
We build strong teams internally and create long-term, sustainable partnerships that amplify our impact.
In May 2009, during a trip around the world with his family, David Risher saw a library in Ecuador whose door had been padlocked. Inspired to provide books to those in need, he realized that e-reader technology was able to work in the most remote areas of the world, where people had very limited access to compelling and relevant reading material. With his colleague and ex ESADE executive, Colin McElwee, he founded Worldreader in 2010 with the hopes of serving communities in low-income countries with the digital books they need to improve their lives.
In March 2010, the Worldreader team traveled to Ghana and conducted a trial with 20 e-readers at OrphanAid Africa. Shortly thereafter, Ghana’s Ministry of Education granted permission to Worldreader to permit the organization to extend its work across the country.
Over the next decade, Worldreader expanded its impact and reach by moving beyond e-reader hardware to developing its own apps for mobile phones and tablets and supporting programming in West Africa, East Africa, India, and Peru.
In 2020, Worldreader launched the BookSmart digital reading solution to get and keep children in under-resourced communities around the world reading, with a special focus on supporting families while schooling was disrupted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. And in 2021, Worldreader further expanded by launching the Keep Children Reading initiative in the United States.
In an effort to bring reading to as many children as possible, BookSmart now provides thousands of quality children’s books in five primary languages and is available on a full range of digital devices. Partnering with organizations ranging from corporations to INGOs, schools, and community-based nonprofits, BookSmart is reaching children in over 100 countries.
In 2022, Worldreader developed a Theory of Change to guide its work for the next few years. This strategic framework focuses Worldreader’s efforts on getting children aged 3-12 years old reading at least 25 books a year in order to improve their comprehension, digital literacy and emotional literacy skills.
Rebecca Chandler Leege is Worldreader’s new Chief Executive Officer. From 2018-2023, Rebecca led Worldreader’s impact across the globe as Chief Impact Officer, helping the nonprofit reach over 22 million readers and transforming the organization’s strategy to be laser-focused on getting children reading across under-resourced communities.
With more than 25 years of people-centered global leadership experience, Rebecca has a proven track record of growing innovative organizations through creative collaborations, cross-sector partnerships, and strategic vision.
A creative humanitarian and nonprofit leader, Rebecca previously co-led All Children Reading: A Grand Challenge for Development, now one of the longest-running edtech innovation efforts across the US Agency for International Development (USAID). As Director of Child Protection, Gender, and Education, at World Vision, she led a team working to reduce gender barriers and inequities and child labor/trafficking across the fishing and cocoa sectors. Rebecca also worked with World Relief in Rwanda as their Director of Programs before relocating to their headquarters as Director of Global Program Operations, covering complex international relief and development operations from Mongolia to Haiti.
Before choosing the humanitarian path, Rebecca spent six years in the private sector in international human resources consulting with Fortune 500 companies. Her career spans leadership roles across education, child protection and gender sectors and she has lived and worked throughout Africa and Asia for over 15 years.
Rebecca holds a Master of Science in Multinational Commerce from Boston University and is based in Atlanta, GA with her family, and is always ready for a cup of coffee. She invites everyone to read The Story of You, by Lisa Ann Scott and illustrated by Sue Cornelison on BookSmart.
Meet the rest of the Worldreader team here.