People | November 12, 2020

Worldreader Establishes Preeminent Advisory Council for its Keep Children Reading Program in the United States


Leaders from across sectors guide a new education program supporting vulnerable children in the US during Covid-19 school disruptions and beyond.

12 November 2020 – San Francisco, California. San Francisco-based, global education nonprofit Worldreader launched its Keep Children Reading program in the United States this week. Drawing on 10 years of experience working around the world, the organization will provide digital books, learning activities, and reader engagement to thousands of children in the U.S. during Covid-19 school disruptions and beyond.

“Big problems call for big solutions,” said David Risher, Co-founder and CEO of Worldreader. “This council brings together expertise in reading and literacy, STEM education, publishing, technology, government, consumer products, and philanthropy. We’re thrilled these leaders have come together to keep vulnerable children reading and learning during this crisis and beyond.”

The Advisory Council will provide both individual and group advice on partnership engagement, programmatic and strategic issues, as well as specific technical issues based on their areas of expertise. Details on members of the Council follow.

Keep Children Reading Advisory Council

Sandra Cisneros
Author, Advocate, and MacArthur Fellow 

Sandra Cisneros, author of the classic, coming-of-age novel, The House on Mango Street, explores the lives of the working-class in her writing.  Her numerous awards include a MacArthur Fellowship (the “genius grant”), NEA fellowships in both poetry and fiction, the National Medal of the Arts award presented to her by President Obama in 2016, and more. In addition to her writing, Cisneros has fostered the careers of many aspiring and emerging writers through two non-profits she founded: the Macondo Foundation and the Alfredo Cisneros del Moral Foundation. She is also the organizer of Los MacArturos, Latinx MacArthur fellows who are community activists.

Photo by Keith Dannemiller

Andy Jassy
Amazon Web Services

Andy Jassy is CEO of Amazon Web Services (AWS), the world’s most comprehensive and broadly adopted cloud platform. Having led AWS since its inception, he’s managed an inventive and nimble team that has delivered infrastructure and application services used by millions of startup, enterprise, and government customers around the world. Jassy joined Amazon in 1997. Prior to founding AWS, he held various leadership roles across the company. He serves as a Commissioner on the National Security Commission for AI, on the Trust of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Board of Trustees for Rainier Scholars, and as chair of Rainier Prep’s Board of Directors.

Elana Jassy

Philanthropist and Community Volunteer

With a background in art and design, Elana Jassy worked in the apparel industry in the early years of her career. The daughter of Berkeley graduates in the sixties, the Civil Rights Movement was always part of the conversation that shaped her values. After witnessing inequity in education firsthand, she traveled to Montgomery, Alabama in 2018 to The Legacy Museum, Peace & Justice Memorial, Selma, and then on to D.C. to The National Museum of African American History & Culture. The trip was so impactful that she wanted to offer it to students in Seattle, thus forming The Civil Rights Trail Trip at Garfield High School.

Lonnie Johnson
Inventor/Founder and President
Johnson Research & Development

Lonnie Johnson is an American inventor, aerospace engineer, and entrepreneur who holds over 100 patents. His work history includes a U.S. Air Force term of service and a twelve-year stint at NASA, including the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where he worked on the Galileo mission to Jupiter and the Mars Observer project. Two of Johnson’s companies, Excellatron Solid State and Johnson Battery Technologies, Inc. (JBT) are developing revolutionary energy technology. In 1990, Johnson invented the Super Soaker water gun, one of the world’s best selling toys.

Afam Onyema
GEANCO Foundation

Afam Onyema is the founder and CEO of the GEANCO Foundation. GEANCO’s mission is to save and transform lives in Nigeria. It leads complex surgical missions and runs an innovative program to fight anemia and help poor, vulnerable pregnant women deliver healthy babies. Through its David Oyelowo Leadership Scholarship for Girls, GEANCO provides full tuition, medical care, and social & psychological support to young female victims of terrorism and gender inequality in Nigeria. In 2020, GEANCO partnered with Worldreader to provide hundreds of quarantined Nigerian students with tablets  preloaded with West African books. 

Mary Pope Osborne
Magic Tree House series

Mary Pope Osborne is the author the New York Times #1 bestselling Magic Tree House series. An international phenomenon, the series has sold over 160 million books and been translated into 35 languages. Her books were among the first-ever and best-loved books available on the Worldreader platform to students in Ghana in 2010. Osborne has traveled extensively in the US and abroad, visiting schools and speaking on issues related to children’s literacy. In 2015, Osborne formed the MTH Classroom Adventure Program, a free-of-charge extensive program for teachers to help bring the joy of reading into their classrooms. In collaboration with the First Book organization, she has donated hundreds of thousands of books to children in need through her Magic Tree House Gift of Books program, which distributes books to Title One funded schools. She is currently partnering with First Book in their Covid Relief Initiative.

Anthony Marx
The New York Public Library

Anthony “Tony” Marx leads the nation’s largest library system, with 88 neighborhood libraries and four scholarly research centers that receive about 17 million physical visits each year. Since joining NYPL in 2011, Marx has strengthened the Library’s role as an essential provider of educational resources and opportunities for all ages across all five boroughs of New York. Under his leadership, the Library has created new early literacy and after-school programs for children and teens, increased free English language classes by 500% and added citizenship support for immigrants, improved services for scholars and students who rely on the Library’s world-renowned research collections, and led several innovative digital initiatives to expand the Library’s reach.

Carrie Stern Rathod
Senior Brand Director
Procter & Gamble

Carrie Rathod is a senior director helping shape the future of brand building at Procter & Gamble. Since 2005 she has led brands and businesses across categories and regions. Rathod has a strong track record leading teams through ambiguous business situations to deliver impactful results. Rathod currently activates citizenship commitments through creative content partnerships advancing Equality and Inclusion, Environmental Sustainability and Community Impact. Rathod has been a literacy and children’s advocate through one-to-one mentoring, as a program leader, and through local and corporate advocacy. 

British A.  Robinson
British A. Robinson
President and CEO
Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy

British A. Robinson is president and CEO of the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy. Robinson is a visionary thought leader and social entrepreneur with more than 20 years of experience spearheading initiatives in international and domestic health, corporate social responsibility, public-private partnerships, government relations, and advocacy and policy development. Robinson previously served as Founding CEO of the Women’s Heart Alliance, a unique collaboration between two of America’s leading medical institutions: the Barbra Streisand Women’s Heart Center at Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute and the Ronald O. Perelman Heart Institute at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center.

Roy Swan
Director of Mission Investments
Ford Foundation

Roy Swan leads the Ford Foundation’s Mission Investments team, managing its portfolio of mission related investments, program related investments, and grants that expand the impact investing field; increasing adherence to sustainable Environmental, Social, & Governance (ESG) standards; and strengthening the role of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) principals in business and society. He was the founding chief investment officer of New York City’s Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone, a federal initiative to bring resources to distressed urban communities which played a key role in Harlem’s economic rebirth. He also served as CFO at Carver Bancorp, the nation’s largest African American managed bank. Roy serves on Worldreader’s US Board of Directors.

With the guidance of these leaders, Keep Children Reading will help children in underserved communities build their reading skills, learn about other cultures, and develop emotionally during this pandemic and beyond – setting them up for success in school and life.  

Worldreader is raising funds to support and expand the program to reach more children. To support this effort, contact or visit 

Keep Children Reading Program Details:

  • A 40-week academic-year reading program for children in grades PreK–5th, delivered in partnership with community-based organizations
  • The program features a weekly digital book plus three 10-minute learning activities that parents and children can complete together
  • The high-quality children’s library features books in English and Spanish from around the world, including books that support social-emotional learning, address race and inclusivity, educate on health and wellness (including coronavirus), and support literacy and numeracy skills
  • Available through BookSmart, a purpose-built app, that’s simple, fast, and works on any mobile phone, addressing the digital divide



About Worldreader

Worldreader believes that readers build a better world. A nonprofit with a low-cost, high-tech approach, Worldreader combines 21st-century technology, culturally relevant digital books, and supportive programming to improve learning outcomes, workforce readiness, and gender equity in vulnerable communities around the world. Since 2010, Worldreader and its partners have distributed over 53 million digital books to more than 15 million children and young adults.  Worldreader is always looking for partners to reach millions more. 


Melanie Wise
Sr. Director, Global Marketing & Communications