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Worldreader Official Logo.jpg
Founded2010; 9 years ago (2010)
FounderDavid Risher, Colin McElwee
TypeNon-governmental organization
FocusWith low-cost technology, culturally-relevant digital books, and a network of corporate and nonprofit partners, Worldreader helps millions of children and families in the developing world read throughout their lives.
Area served
Africa, Asia, South America
Key people
David Risher, Colin McElwee

Worldreader is a 501(c)(3) global non-profit organization that provides people in the developing world with free access to a library of digital books via e-readers and mobile phones.[1]

Since 2010, 7.6 million people across 50 countries have read from Worldreader's digital library of over 35,000 e-books.[2] Worldreader works with device manufacturers, local and international publishers, government agencies, education officials, and local communities to support readers everywhere.

The organization is headquartered in San Francisco, California and has offices in Ghana, Kenya, Spain and the United Kingdom.


Mobile Phones to Build Pre-reading Skills[edit]

Worldreader works with families to help young children develop the skills needed to become successful readers. Their Read to Kids pilot was launched in 2015 in Delhi, India in partnership with Pearson and has reached over 200,000 families with a free digital library via their mobile phone and community reading programs. Since then, the organization has launched Tuta Tuta, to bring Arabic children's books to 30,000 Syrian refugees and host communities across Jordan via the Worldreader Kids app.

Kindles in African Schools and Libraries[edit]

Worldreader distributes e-readers preloaded with books through partnering schools and libraries, using the non-profit's e-reading solutions. The organization provides technical and pedagogical training for local project managers and teachers and e-reader repair training for local businesses. They also manage logistics and support in partnership with local governments, school systems, and related businesses.[3]

For schools or libraries without access to electricity, the non-profit has a solar product, called BB17, that gives schools and libraries the ability to charge and use e-readers.[4]

As of September 2017, the non-profit has distributed 28,085 Kindle e-readers to 204,938 people including children, families and communities in 12 sub-Saharan African countries.[5]

Mobile Phones as Digital Libraries[edit]

The Worldreader app provides worldwide access to books, educational resources and health information to people with mobile phones.[6] The non-profit launched Worldreader Open Library in April 2012.[7]

As of September 2017 the Worldreader app had 6.3 million readers worldwide, largely due to its partnership with Opera Software,[8] which promotes the mobile app on the Opera Mini browser in 34 African countries.[9] The app is also available on Microsoft Windows Store, in Mozilla's Firefox Marketplace and Google's Play Store.


Worldreader is organized as a 501c3 charitable organization in the United States, and has received a Guidestar Transparency Seal. Its U.S. Board of Directors[10] consists of: David Risher (president), Peter Spiro (chair), Aiko Bethea (secretary), Terry Atkinson, Jim Bildner, Charles Brighton, Chris Capossela, Mary Case, Elizabeth Khuri Chandler, Colin McElwee, Harrison Miller, Lisa Nitze, Kartik Raghavan and Sue Sanderson. In Spain, the organization operates as a registered non-profit foundation validated by the Ministry of Education with the registration number 1361.

Co-founders David Risher and Colin McElwee lead the organization from San Francisco, California and Barcelona, Spain. A mix of private social investors, corporate sponsors, and government agencies including USAID funds the organization.[11]


The organization conducts monitoring and evaluation for impact assessment, develops reading focused out-of-classroom activities and teacher workshops by working with communities and partner organizations. Its research shows that students in the e-reader programs improved 94% in mother tongue oral reading fluency after 5 months, and girls in the e-reader programs improved twice as fast in oral reading fluency as girls in neighboring schools, closing an existing gender gap.[12] The Worldreader iREAD 2 project was funded by an All Children Reading grant from USAID, World Vision and AusAid, aimed to improve early grade reading skills for students in Ghana. The project's final report,[13] in November 2014, showed significant improvements in oral reading fluency, reading comprehension gains, significant impact among low-performing students and development of positive reading habits. Worldreader has shown that reading from the Worldreader Open Library is particularly popular with women, who spend on average 207 minutes reading per month, compared to 32 minutes for men.[14]

Project LEAP, a pilot program implemented by Worldreader in partnership with eight public and community libraries in western Kenya, and funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, examined the use of e-readers in selected libraries to determine how e-readers affect library patronage, communities, staff, policies and procedures. The primary impacts included a threefold increase in library visits, from 10,442 to 29,023 patrons per month, 254 library-initiated community events and 84% of patrons reported increased reading.[15]


2017: National Technology Awards: Innovation of the Year Winner for Worldreader[16]

2017: London Book Fair's Charity of the Year[17]

2017: mBillionth Award: Learning and Education Winner for the Read to Kids pilot program with Pearson India[18]

2017: DIGIXX Digital Marketing Excellence in the Charity and NGO category Gold Winners for Read to Kids India[19]

2016: Schwab Foundation: 2016 Schwab Foundation Social Entrepreneurs of the Year, David Risher and Colin McElwee for Worldreader [20]

2015: The GSMA Global Mobile Award: Best Mobile Innovation for Education, Worldreader & Opera for the Worldreader app [21]

2015: The Meffy Awards: The Innovation Award for Mobile-First Market, Worldreader for the Worldreader app [22]

2015: The Meffy Awards: The Market Award for Social Responsibility, Worldreader for the Worldreader app [23]


  1. ^ "Video – Katie Linendoll on BrookB". 2012-07-06. Retrieved 2011-01-15.
  2. ^ "Worldreader: E-books on Cell Phones and Kindles in Schools". Worldreader. Retrieved 2017-01-26.
  3. ^ Shapiro, Jordan (27 June 2015). "Education Technology Makes The Most Impact In The Least Recognized Places". Forbes. Retrieved 21 August 2015.
  4. ^ "Worldreader Solar Solution" (PDF).
  5. ^ "Worldreader: E-Reading Projects in Schools and Libraries". Worldreader. Retrieved 2017-01-27.
  6. ^ Linendoll, Katie. "E-readers bring hope to Africa's schools". CNN. CNN. Retrieved 22 July 2015.
  7. ^ Owen, Laura. "Worldreader counts 500,000 users of its e-reading app on feature phones". Gigaom. Gigaom. Retrieved 22 July 2015.
  8. ^ Worldreader and Opera Bring Books to 5 Million Readers in Africa via Mobile Phones Digital Reader. 2 September 2015
  9. ^ Crawshaw, Jo (15 May 2015). "Get free books from Worldreader and Microsoft Math on Opera Mini". Opera. Retrieved 22 July 2015.
  10. ^ "US Board Members". Worldreader. Retrieved 11 February 2013.
  11. ^ "First Step to Literacy: Getting Books in the Hands of Children". Brookings Institution. Retrieved 2011-01-28.
  12. ^ "iREAD 2 Midterm Study Results: All Children Reading in Ghana 2013" (PDF). Worldreader. Worldreader. Retrieved 22 July 2015.
  13. ^ "iREAD Study 2012-2014" (PDF). Worldreader. Worldreader. Retrieved 22 July 2015.
  14. ^ "Reading in the Mobile Era: A UNESCO study of mobile reading in developing countries" (PDF). UNESCO.
  15. ^ "Project LEAP Final Report 2015" (PDF). Worldreader. Worldreader. Retrieved 22 July 2015.
  16. ^ "National Technology Awards". Retrieved 2018-07-11.
  17. ^ "Charity of the Year - The London Book Fair". 2015-09-15. Retrieved 2018-07-11.
  18. ^ Worldreader (11 July 2018). "Worldreader and Pearson Win mBillionth Award for Read to Kids Program" (PDF).
  19. ^ "DIGIXX Awards 2017 - Categories". Retrieved 2018-07-11.
  20. ^ "Social Entrepreneurs of the Year 2016 - Schwab Foundation". Retrieved 2017-11-06.
  21. ^ "Best Mobile Innovation for Education 2015".
  22. ^ "Meffys 2015 winners 12 months on: Worldreader - Blog - MEF". MEF. 2016-09-07. Retrieved 2017-11-06.
  23. ^ "Meffys 2015 winners 12 months on: Worldreader - Blog - MEF". MEF. 2016-09-07. Retrieved 2017-11-06.