THE BLOG
01/05/2014 08:48 BST | Updated 30/06/2014 06:59 BST

Changing the World...One E-book at a Time

Changing the World...One E-book at a Time

How does a young boy in a single-parent home with limited resources travel the world?

With Books!

Through books, explains David Risher I discovered exotic lands and new ideas. Once he graduated from Harvard Business School, it was his love of books that attracted him to work as an executive for a new small online bookstore called Amazon.

Books were my way to live any life I chose, they were what I studied in college, and they were what attracted me to work with Jeff Bezos and Amazon in the first place - David Risher.

Books, indeed, gave David Risher many rich experiences and opportunities. Additionally, due to the success of Amazon.com, it gave him and his family financial freedom as well. David and his wife, Jennifer enjoyed their success, but also wanted to give back.

They decided to take a year out to travel the world with their two children. With a Kindle E-reader each and a sense of adventure the family set out to travel the globe and work as volunteers throughout Asia & South America.

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During one of their stops, the family volunteered at an orphanage in Ecuador. Here, they saw a padlocked building with books piled up above the windows. David had to ask what was going on. That's our library, replied the orphanage's leader. But I think I've lost the key. The girls had lost interest in the library's books, because most were outdated, irrelevant and/or damaged.

He was heartbroken and pondered a way to spark their interest in reading and learning. At that moment, an idea took seed as he thought to himself, What if we used modern mobile technology, E-readers and the power of letting children choose books to read to transform lives throughout the world?

This idea took root and Worldreader was born.

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Upon returning from their round-the-world trip, David collaborated with his friend and ESADE Business School's marketing director, Colin McElwee. Together, they took their first trip to Africa, armed with 30 E-readers and the contact information of a lady named Lisa Lovett, who was the founder of OrphanAid Africa in Ghana.

Fast-forward to 2014 and now Worldreader is an established NGO with a staff of 50 people, and is supplying over 200,000 children and families with access to books through E-Readers such as the Kindle and APPS for inexpensive mobile devices.

Through technology and education, Worldreader believes that they really can eradicate illiteracy and change the world. Their goal is presently to reach 1,000,000 children, and then increase that goal to over 10,000,000.

Providing books to thousands of poverty-stricken children is impacting lives. When various professionals in the publishing and educational industry were asked to comment on the influence that Worldreader is having, the following comments were heard:

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Worldreader Is a major resource providing the solution to one of the biggest problems facing children - lack of books and access to books. It is an organization with a goal to improve literacy through increasing access to books through the e-reader and mobile scene. -Cathy Malala

Worldreader is a solution provider: Life changing, information sharing and great impact to both the publishers and the reading communities. -Lawrence Njag, Mountain Top Publishers

Worldreader creates a bridge towards academic excellence for our students, especially the girls. -Richard Teka

Their method is the most effective and inexpensive way to eradicate illiteracy globally. As of recently, Worldreader has wirelessly distributed more than 1,000,000 African and international e-books via e-readers to children in 9 sub-Saharan African countries. And the results are staggering: in less than 5 months, children show significant improvements in fluency and comprehension and the gender gap closes.

Once these children are active readers, together with their families they can continue to access the content via Worldreader Mobile, a mobile phone app available to 80% of the developing world via feature phones- helping people make decisions, learn, grow and change their lives.

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It's inspiring to see what happens when one marries philanthropy, technology and passion.

With the help of Worldreader, we are marching towards a literate planet- a crucial step to end poverty and literally change the world, one E-book at a time.

By Dr. Michelle Nielsen

Visit Worldreader.com to support, donate learn more.

All photos used with permission from the Worldreader website.