| June 3, 2013

Worldreader Kits for Literacy Programs in Africa! But . . . What’s a Kit?


“You must choose your own path,” says her guide to Kanuki, heroine of Kanuki and the Wishing Tree, one of Worldreader students’ favorite books. It tells the story of a short-necked giraffe who seeks help in growing the long neck she needs. The eagle who leads her to the wishing tree says she must also believe in herself.

It’s a lesson not only about giraffes. It’s a story for anyone looking to reach new heights, something leaders at New Dawn Educational Centre in Nairobi can relate to.

They wanted to help Kenyan students follow their own paths as well, but like Kanuki needed help.They turned to Worldreader.

“Our greatest challenge was outfitting a library. After we finished building it, we quickly realized that books were expensive and they didn’t last long–so we knew we had to find an electronic solution,” said Phil Renicks, a teacher at the Centre. “I looked online and found the answer–Worldreader.”

New Dawn became a Worldreader Kits Partner, bringing 60 e-readers to their school’s library. “These e-readers are a treasure to everyone,” added Renicks. “One student told me, ‘You mean to tell me that there are 100 books on this? That’s a miracle!’“

Like New Dawn, Worldreader wants to help every child find their own path by promoting reading in Africa and getting students the education they deserve. We’re always looking to partner with new schools and libraries and you have probably read about our recent Kit launches in Kenya, Tanzania and Zimbabwe.

But what’s a Kit?

A brand-new Worldreader Kit, all packed up and ready to travel, offers the promise of reading in a box!

Our Kits are a complete package of everything a partner organization will need to set up a literacy program in Africa, use e-books to fight illiteracy and open the door to a better future for their students. A Kit isn’t just a set of physical objects–it’s our means of helping schools and other organizations to establish a successful e-reader program in their community. It includes hardware, software and remote training and technical support with one or more members of our Kits team. Many partners also choose to request in-person, on-site help from Worldreader. So far in 2013, we’ve shipped more than 16 Kits, and we hope to ship at least 32 more by the year’s end.

What’s in the Box?

The standard Kit contains 50 e-readers and additional hardware, including cases, chargers, lights and labels. We’ve posted before about the necessity of rugged protective cases, and how we’ve worked with M-Edge to create a case meeting the unique needs of our young readers. M-Edge also provides lights to allow students to read at night, increasing their possible reading time! We’re still working to develop a sufficiently tough solar recharging case. The identifying labels mark e-readers as belonging to a particular student or in a particular library section. Very often, students will personalize the case or label on their own, creating a sense of ownership and forging a strong love of reading.

Worldreader Kits, all packed up and ready to travel, offers the promise of reading in a box. These Kits are making their way from our San Francisco office to sub-Saharan Africa.

Additionally, the Kit includes one charger for every two e-readers. Our schools have a variety of setups for charging the e-readers. Guidance for providing adequate power isn’t part of the Kit, but we select our partners partly based on their ability to reliably provide the necessary charge. The schools and communities have a much better idea of the best way to employ their own resources for the purpose than anyone advising from afar, although Worldreader will work with our partners to choose the device type (WiFi or 3G) and deployment type (in classroom only, or at home with student, etc.) that will work best for their school’s setup and needs.

The Kit also includes books, of course! Typically, it includes 50 African e-books and 50 international (non-African) titles from our vast digital library. Worldreader is working all the time to promote not just reading IN Africa but reading OF Africa, offering students and communities books written by African authors and in local languages. Partners will choose these first 100 books based on the reading level of their students and the teachers’ curriculum plans, as well as potential needs of the wider community. Kits partners often want and purchase more than 100 books, and after the launch they will continue to have access to all 1,500+ e-books in Worldreader’s library, where they can purchase additional titles at highly subsidized prices.

Who can get a Kit?

Worldreader is always on the lookout for new partner schools to help us fight illiteracy, and they can apply through our Partners page. We are looking for (and finding!) schools seeking to develop literacy programs primarily in Africa, although we have plans to also eventually expand beyond Africa in the coming years.

The best candidate schools are solidly established and well-organized, with reputations for achieving success, roots in and ties to their local communities, significant student capacity, and good use of their infrastructure. Because our schools are proactively seeking to engage with Worldreader, they will come to us with a well-developed plan for Kit funding, e-reader charging and community support building. With the help and advice of the Worldreader team, the school or organization will choose the best device and deployment model for their needs, designate a project manager and identify the content that best matches the needs of their students and curriculum.

As discussed in more detail here, Worldreader is also hoping to expand our ability to match qualified schools that lack funding with sponsors who don’t have a connection to a particular school. One of our most powerful recent launches was a sponsorship success story in Nairobi, Kenya at the Kibera Girls Soccer Academy. In 2013, we’re also hoping to help our partner schools find some new funding sources, including possible crowdsourcing options.

If you would like to sponsor a school for a Worldreader Kit launch, please get in touch!

What happens when the Kit arrives?

The cost of a Kit includes remote phone conferencing to provide training and guidance from Worldreader team members. Part of this guidance is pre-launch training with the designated Project Manager. That person and one or two assistants will be trained by Worldreader, who will subsequently train any teachers involved in the program. Having a local point person with expertise allows the school and program to be more autonomous and less dependent on Worldreader as the program goes on. This way, local knowledge and independence are both self-perpetuating. Eventually, the Program Manager will also oversee the launch, which includes the training the teachers and students how to use the e-readers. This series of trainings may take a week, and often includes a community launch event to announce and celebrate the new program, and encourage community support of the program and its goals. The Kit cost also post-launch Skype consultation with our project specialists if the Project Manager needs ongoing support.

If the partner school requests it and can provide the extra funding, Worldreader will also send our experienced team members to the school site in Africa to train, troubleshoot, and share their expertise in building literacy using e-readers. In this situation, our team members will be on hand to help out with the entire training and launch process, with everything from unpacking to taking great pictures of the events.


Assistant Program Managers Musa and Amos show teachers how to use their e-readers at the Kibera Girls Soccer Academy in Kenya.


“This is really fun and great for us because the gadget opens a whole world of opportunities in reading,” said Harrison, another teacher at New Dawn.

Help transform reading in Africa. Become a Kits partner and see what new opportunities open up for kids everywhere!