From the press release (blockquotes omitted):
Worldreader, a non-profit organization whose
aim is to bring digital books to all in the developing world, along with the U.S. Agency
for International Development (USAID) and ILC Africa, today released the results of
Worldreader’s pilot study of e-readers in Ghana. Titled iREAD, the pilot program
involved the wireless distribution of over 32,000 local and international digital books
using Kindle e-readers to 350 students and teachers at six pilot schools in Ghana’s
Eastern Region between November 2010 and September 2011.
According to the USAID-funded report from ILC Africa, an independent measurement
and evaluation firm, the Worldreader e-reader program:
• Dramatically increased children’s access to books: Students with e-readers
carried with them an average of 107 books each. Prior to the introduction of ereaders primary students reported having an average of only 3.6 books per
student in their homes. Junior high school students reported having an
average of 8.6 books at home, and senior high school students had 11.
• Increased enthusiasm towards reading: Students actively downloaded over
6,000 free books during the course of the study, in addition to the local and
international text- and story books provided by Worldreader. This does not
include thousands of additional free first-chapter samples and trial
subscriptions to newspapers and magazines. See the Appendix for select
case studies demonstrating students’ interest in reading.
• Increased resources for teachers: The Kindles allowed teachers to conduct
background research, create lesson notes, and design reading
comprehension assessments for students. Since work was more efficient,
teachers reported having more time to develop lessons.
• Increased performance on standardized test scores: Reading scores of
primary school students who received e-readers increased from 12.9% to
15.7%, depending on whether they received any additional reading
support. This represented an improvement of 4.8% to 7.6% above scores of
students in control classrooms without e-readers. These results were obtained
using the School Education Assessment (SEA), an assessment designed by edia Relations
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Ghana Basic Education Comprehensive Assessment System (BECAS)
project. The SEA exam is intended to show how well Primary 4 students
understand core objectives within the English curriculum.
• Results at the junior high school and senior high school levels were mixed.
“We have been pleased to be involved in the exploration of e-readers and look
forward to further learning of the potential of different technologies that support the
Ministry of Education and Ghana Education Service Plans for quality education
improvements in Ghana,” said Marisol Perez, Education Office Director at USAID
According to Zev Lowe, Director of Research and Operations at Worldreader, “We
had hoped to see kids read more and better when provided a portable library of
culturally-relevant books. We have seen even more enthusiasm about reading than
we expected for a 10-month pilot, and look forward to making available more local
and international e-books to many more students in the developing world as
we continue on our mission to bring books to all.”
During the pilot study, Worldreader worked with local leaders to raise awareness
about e-readers. Worldreader’s collaboration with community leadership kept loss
and theft rates of the e-readers to nearly zero. Breakage rates were higher than
hoped-for, but feedback from Worldreader has since cut breakage rates by more
than half. Worldreader continues to work closely with students and device
manufacturers to improve care of e-readers with strengthening the design, while
continuing to encourage students to use the e-readers outside of school so that they
can read more.
Regarding next steps, Robert Davidson, former Education Office Director at USAID
Ghana who helped initiate this Global Development Alliance between Worldreader
and USAID, emphasized the continuing importance of partnerships to the future
success of the program, noting that it will also be “critical for other bi-lateral and
multi-lateral agencies to adopt technological and forward-leaning strategies in their
Since September 2011, Worldreader has expanded its program, distributing an
additional 36,000 digital books to students in Ghana, Kenya, and Uganda. In
addition, through its Worldreader Kit Program, Worldreader has made its e-reader
program available to other organizations that seek to provide e-books to children
throughout Sub Saharan Africa. Finally, Worldreader has recently launched a mobile
phone application for inexpensive “feature” phones that allows anyone with a basic
phone and mobile data plan to read hundreds of books for free.
Worldreader is a US- and European not-for-profit organization that aims to put a library of
digital books within the hands of children across the planet. Founded in 2009 by former
Microsoft and Amazon executive David Risher and Marketing Director at Barcelona’s ESADE
Business School Colin McElwee, Worldreader works with manufacturers, local and
international publishers, governments, education officials, and local communities to bring
books to all.