Booklists, Digital Reading | March 18, 2022

Ashoka and Worldreader Share Inspiring Stories for Young Changemakers


Stories hold the power to not only expand the minds of young people, but allow them to perceive what problems affect people around the world. How characters choose to make change encourages young readers to translate that bravery to their own lives. Ashoka’s partnership with Worldreader has produced a Changemaker book series. The five books introduce high quality stories to children in a variety of languages and cultural contexts – illustrating what it means to feel powerful at a young age. This continuing series intends to influence children to become a changemaker in their own communities at their own capacity by cultivating empathy.

Worldreader is a non-profit that provides Pre-K through 8th grade students free access to a digital library of children’s books via mobile device. Providing access to the five books including “Project Moo,” “To Clean a Creek,” “Art For All,” and “The Happiness Project,” and “Rebecca, The Maasai Changemaker” has allowed global Changemakers to read about people their age making a change in a creative and compelling storytelling fashion. The changemakers portrayed in the stories have initiated social innovation with help from Ashoka, a non-profit that identifies, supports, and amplifies social entrepreneurs and changemakers from around the world.

From Jan. 1, 2021 to Jan. 11, 2022, the Changemaker books were opened over 100,000 times by 46,163 readers in 118 countries. They’ve been read in full nearly 10,000 times, according to Worldreader engagement data.  

“We believe that readers build a better world,” said Melanie Wise, senior director, global marketing and communications at Worldreader. “By making these stories freely available online and on the BookSmart app, millions of young people around the world can be inspired to make positive change in their communities.”

Introducing the Books

When Ashoka and Worldreader launched the collection in October 2021 at the Kenya National Library, teachers, parents, students, and other players in the education sector attended the “Trace your reading and the change-making journey” event, according to the Star. Attendees were informed how the developing collection would inspire and equip readers to identify and solve a problem in their community but also start them on a path of practicing empathy, according to the Star.

Project Moo by Olivia Wood

Published by Worldreader and Ashoka

Ages 6-8

Project Moo tells the story of Ara, a young girl from Indonesia who visits farms in her village to observe how cows are taken care of. She notices two farms treat cows completely differently, so Ara organizes a meeting for farmers to share their tips and guide one another so that no cows suffer. Without Ara’s seemingly lighthearted love for cows, the condition that the cows were in at one farm would go unnoticed, and their resources in Indonesia wouldn’t have been optimized. Ara teaches us efficient ideas, to any extent, should always be shared for a more progressive society. 

► Read it here.

To Clean a Creek

By Olivia Wood

To Clean a Creek follows Rhenan, a 13-year-old boy in Brazil who is deeply disappointed in the trash in and around the river near his home. He then inspires his community to come together and clean up the river to restore beauty in their community. Whether it be at a river in town, a trip to the beach, or a pond at school, everyone has witnessed trash in the natural habitat of aquatic creatures. Water keeps us all alive, and To Clean a Creek highlights how we can all do better to restore life.

Read it here.

Art for All

By Olivia Wood

In Art for All, Amira, a girl in Egypt, notices refugees having difficulty adjusting to their new home, so she plans an art class at the Refugee Center. The class allows refugees to share their experiences and feel less alone when assimilating to a new normal. At least 82.4 million people around the world have been forced to flee their homes. Among them are nearly 26.4 million refugees, according to the UN Refugee Agency. Refugees continue to seek asylum, and any child reading “Art for All” could call a refugee a neighbor tomorrow. Amira demonstrates it’s important to continue creating more inclusive and safe places.

Read it here.

The Happiness Project

By Olivia Wood

The Happiness Project transports readers to India, where Apoorvi notices her older sister Riya experiencing depression. Being a support system to her sister, Apoorvi realizes there are kids without support systems, so she creates a survey for students to express how they feel at school. The World Health Organization estimates that 76–85% of people suffering from mental disorders in low- and middle-income countries lack access to necessary treatment. By hearing Apoorvi’s story, children understand mental illness is experienced across all cultures and social contexts, and it could influence them to promote wellbeing for themselves and their peers. 

Read it here.

Rebecca, The Maasai Changemaker

By Olivia Wood

Rebecca, The Maasai Changemaker tells the story of a girl in Kenya who is alarmed when so many days go by without rain, so she decides to learn about climate change and write a letter to the president of Kenya expressing her concern. Rebecca manages to convince everyone in her Maasai community to plant a tree outside their home. Climate change continues to impact all species and communities around the world, and Rebecca influenced her community to take action to protect the earth, as well as Worldreaders across the globe. 

Read it here.

Why Changemaker Stories Matter

While every story in the series unfolds in different ways, together the books demonstrate that “changemaker” is an identity any person can step into — and young people don’t have to wait to “grow up” before making a positive difference in their community and beyond.

“I would say changemaking is similar to the identity of being a student, or a mother, or a friend. Being a changemaker is a part of your identity, where it’s just a natural part of who you are,” said Reilly Brooks, partnerships manager with Ashoka U.S. Youth Years.

For Ara Kusuma, the Changemaker in “Project Moo,” joining the Ashoka community connected her with other changemakers, who each had stories that she could relate to or draw inspiration from. 

“At first I felt weird, like is it only me? because I lived in a small town. At the time I was still in primary school. Even the farmers saw me as a weird girl,”  Kusuma said. While she didn’t see many changemaker stories growing up, through the changemaker book series, Ara is now sharing hers far and wide.

Research shows that through reading, we deepen our empathy by stepping into the shoes of a character who’s facing an experience different than our own. Stories also help us not feel alone. Often changemakers see issues in the world that they wish to change, but notice others appear unmoved by their surroundings. The goal of this collection: help readers empathize, feel understood, and be encouraged to take a risk — knowing that other bold young people have gone before. Through the Changemaker stories, presented in this series, changemakers can find their village between the pages, and dare to step into their own stories.

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