Read the World

How you can help not-for-profit organisation Worldreader put books into the hands of those who lack even basic reading material.

Here in the UK, we have the privilege of easy access to both printed books and digital ones, as well as the luxury of being able to debate their relative merits.

However, next time you find yourself extolling the virtues of physical books over e-books, maybe even as you unwrap a few over Christmas, consider for a moment the millions who lack access to any kind of reading material at all. As UNESCO affirms, literacy is transformative; it increases earning potential, decreases inequality, improves health outcomes and breaks the cycle of poverty. Books are central to the development of such literacy skills, yet 50% of schools in Africa for example, have few or no books at all. Across the world, UNESCO estimates that 740 million people are illiterate and 250 million children of primary school age lack basic reading and writing skills.

It is the vital need for access for books across the developing world which not-for-profit organisation Worldreader aims to address. Its mission is to bring digital books to every child and every family, to improve the quality of their lives and prospects for the future.

Founded in the US in 2010, Worldreader’s mission derived from the growing prevalence of mobile phones in developing countries, and the realisation that such devices provided an ideal and straightforward way of getting reading matter to those who need it most.

The Worldreader Mobile app allows anyone anywhere to access the Worldreader digital library free, from any connected mobile phone and tablet. It also makes its Worldreader Blue Boxes of e-readers available to schools and libraries in sub-Saharan Africa.

Kenya Classroom - holding up ereaders World Reader
Classroom in Kenya: School children hold up their Worldreader e-readers. Picture © Worldreader

Over the past five years, Worldreader has reached over 6 million readers in 69 countries, providing them with over 28,500 book titles in 43 languages ranging from Afrikaans to Swahili. Worldreader works with 180 publishers and their authors to acquire and digitize compelling and relevant content for readers, striving to optimise titles for the smallest of screens. The Worldreader digital library places an emphasis on the work of African and Indian authors to ensure that the first reading experiences of students are as relevant and engaging as possible.

Says Worldreader UK Trustee, Hermione Ireland: “We work with many wonderful organisations to help get the right content to the people who need it but some of our most important partners are authors. We’re reaching audiences who are hungry for new reading experiences and the more authors we can bring in to our world, the better for these readers.”

Internationally bestselling writer Paolo Coelho is among Worldreader’s many author supporters. He says: “The power of digital technology to enable access to books and ultimately improve people’s lives is undeniable”.


Writer, Aminatta Forna, author of The Devil That Danced on the Water and The Hired Man on how she supports Worldreader:

“I wrote a children’s story called The Angel of Mexico City, which I donated it to Worldreader because I had heard of the work they do and because I also run a a school in West Africa I know how important it is to get story books to kids in those countries. The illustrator Christopher Brown donated the cover print and a Worldreader designer put it all together for us. I love the way it looks. The last I heard The Angel of Mexico Citywas the Number 1 Worldreader download, well over 20,000 in just a few months. The book is available on Amazon too, with proceeds split between WorldReader and my own charity.”

World Reader - Girls in Kiberia

How you can help

There are a number of ways authors can support the work of Worldreader.

One-off Donations

A single contribution of £20 will provide 15 e-books, for example.

Regular Donations

A donation of £15 a month gives membership to Worldreader’s Book Club which supports children and families with the books they need to learn, grow and improve their lives. Donors who sign up to Book Club also receive a free digital African title along with a video introduction to the book and its author, and updates on the latest in African publishing and authors.

Author Donation of Access to Digital Books

Donations of access to digital books (subject to publisher & author agreements) from both authors and publishers are welcomed. Among the authors who have made their titles available are Paolo Coehlo, Aminatta Forna, Lauren Beukes, Leila Aboulela and Taiye Selasi.

Many authors donate non-exclusive rights to one or two of their backlist titles which in turn helps create new readers for their work. Worldreader can limit territories to ones where the author’s books are rarely sold, and can also contract to use an author’s works only in certain countries, for a specific time frame, and can also limit download numbers. Authors and publishers can also request to receive data about how and where books are being read.

For further information about the work of Worldreader, please go to or contact Hermione Ireland at