Top 5 Moments from Our 2016 Digital Reading Summits
Six years ago we had a big idea. We believed that digital technology could empower millions of readers around the world. We decided to test this idea. We approached publishers, government officials, teachers and communities asking them to give digital reading a chance. And they did.
Today, the same stakeholders are experiencing the impact of digital reading in their communities far beyond what we could have imagined. We witnessed this first-hand at our 3rd Annual Digital Reading Summits held in Ghana and Kenya in April of this year. Over 350 dedicated participants gathered together to discuss the future of digital reading in Africa.
This year’s theme, Transforming Lives Through Digital Reading, acknowledged that there is no silver bullet to solving the problem of global illiteracy. But what we do know is this: for any initiative of this scale to work, government and community buy-in is fundamental. A collaborative and inclusive approach has been the key to maximizing the potential of digital technology that has so far empowered millions to read.
This year’s events were filled with incredible moments, inspiring speakers, and some very memorable anecdotes and quotes. Here are just 5 of those standout moments.
- A Partner Talks About Student Improvement
Worldreader was pleased to invite Pencils of Promise’s (PoP) Ghana Country Director, Freeman Gobah, to share PoP’s experience with e-readers in schools. Gobah talked about the most recent study conducted in PoP schools: “We’re seeing that students with e-readers and teacher support are showing improvements 6 times greater than their control peers on the Familiar Word Recognition subtest on EGRA. In our schools with e-readers, we’re also seeing a dramatic drop in the number of kids that are unable to read at all.” Following this study, Pencils of Promise made a decision to scale up their e-reading programs to 22 more schools.
Freeman also spoke about what parents have told him: “at night now our daughter is reading, that is a huge difference in my community. Please expand this program!’’ We’ve learned that growing a culture of reading isn’t something that is only achieved in the classroom – it requires an entire ecosystem of change. What happens after school and at home is equally as important. The fact that students are taking their e-readers home and that their parents are supporting and engaging in their new reading habits demonstrates the power of digital reading to improve people’s lives.
- An Influential Guest Advocates for Digital Reading
We were honored to welcome Mrs. Matilda Amissah-Arthur, the wife of the Vice President of Ghana, who attended both days of the Summit in Ghana participating in conversations around the importance of building a reading culture. A librarian at heart with a lifelong passion for reading, she was immensely enthusiastic about the potential effects of digital reading in Ghana, stating: “A nation’s developmental process depends on its educational capacity. Books are reservoirs of knowledge; have economic power if properly utilized.”
Her message resonated with many. Following her talks at the summit, Daily Graphic, the state-owned newspaper in Ghana, shared her message in a news article candidly titled “Produce E-books to Enable More Children [to] Read”.
- A Ghanaian Story Most Popular in Kenya
At our Kenya Summit, Richard Oketch, a project manager from the Ouko Community Library announced, “Ananse and the Pot of Wisdom is the most popular book in our library, and we call the e-readers our ‘pots of wisdom.’ Mobile learning and e-reading should be used whenever, by whomever, wherever.”
The Pot of Wisdom is a book written by Ghanaian authors, Adwoa Badoe and Baba Wagué Diakité. Before digital books, it was difficult to imagine that this book would have been printed, loaded onto a truck and brought to Kenya for the community members of the Ouko Community Library to enjoy. Worldreader’s work enables publishers to go digital, empowers them to expand their markets all the while helping children across Africa read books that are culturally relevant to their lives.
- A Letter From a Local Hero
During the Summit in Ghana a letter was given to our CEO and co-founder, David Risher, by Benjamin Kojo Dake, a project manager at an e-reading program school in Ghana’s Volta Region. In the letter Benjamin could not contain his positive sentiments around Worldreader and the future of digital reading. The letter reads:
It is past 2am and I am still not able to sleep but just thinking about this life-changing encounter. I must admit that I got more than I actually anticipated.
I see more than an NGO. I see a panacea for the economic woes of developing countries and beyond. Your service to my country Ghana is more than a billion dollar investment by the IMF or another other entity could offer, and I say that without exaggerating. A literate economy can just not fail.
The Good Book says, “My people perish for lack of knowledge,” but thanks to Worldreader, you are championing a course of saving the world from perishing by opening an amazing done to acquiring knowledge, i.e. reading. I see a great revolution gates towards creating a literate world and thus an enlightened world (…)”
- Introducing Sustainability for Digital Reading
This year a popular addition to the Summits, both in Kenya and Ghana, was the Help Desk. The Help Desk was introduced as a sustainable solution to dealing with nonfunctioning Kindles. Worldreader has increasingly taken steps to ensuring the sustainability of our programs and as part of our efforts we encouraged our partners to submit damaged Worldreader Kindles for troubleshooting assessment. Whenever feasible, the Kindles were fixed and in cases where Kindles could not be repaired, we offered partners the possibility to turn in their devices for responsible recycling. This proved to be a great attribution to the events with the Help Desk successfully fixing 90% of repairable devices.
Worldreader believes in a world where everyone can be a reader and these five moments are a glimpse into our path to creating a world where everyone is a reader. This year’s Digital Reading Summits were bigger than ever, attended by participants who each played a role in growing the digital reading ecosystem. Every month, Worldreader enables nearly half a million people to read books on their mobile devices and since 2010, we’ve enabled 3 million people to read the books they need to improve their lives. With ever more stakeholders involved and with partners that continue to grow the digital reading community, we look forward to seeing even greater impact at next year’s summit, as we work together to empower the next generation of readers in Africa.
A big thanks to all of the participants of the summits for making this year such an incredible success. And a special thanks to some of our partners including the Kenya Publishers Association, the Kenya National Library Services , RTI International , Abercrombie & Kent Philanthropy , CAMFED , Ghana Publishing Association, Pencils of Promise, Edify and many more!