Nothing transforms so many lives as profoundly as the written word. Reading sparks creativity by exposing our minds to whole new worlds teeming with possibilities. Books educate, enlighten, entertain, and inspire. It’s difficult to imagine a world without them. Yet, in many parts of the developing world people can’t afford books. In most of those places, the awesome potential of individuals and whole communities is squandered.
Books printed on paper are expensive to produce and awkward to distribute, especially to outlying areas. That’s why people in the poorest parts of the world, who need them most, have least access to books. Digital technology can change all that by making electronic books accessible to people who, just a few years ago, would have had no access to any kind of books. It’s now possible for hundreds of millions of people, even those living in remote places, to directly experience great literature and study leading educational textbooks. The implications are mind boggling for numerous reasons, but two stand out: First, millions of poor people, who would otherwise have had virtually no chance of acquiring such knowledge, will be able to lift themselves and their communities out of poverty. Second, the entire world will benefit not just because the number of people suffering from illiteracy and extreme poverty is reduced, but also because the knowledge-inspired creativity of millions of new readers will eventually enrich the entire human race.
Yet, even electronic books are too expensive for the world’s poorest people. That’s why I’m dedicating this blog to a remarkable person – my friend David Risher – who is intent on solving that problem. As one of the early driving forces in Amazon’s success story, David is ideally placed to leverage the power of technology especially as it relates to books. Using his formidable technological and entrepreneurial skills, and motivated by his empathy for humanity, David, with his co-founder Colin McElwee, set up the US and European charitable foundation Worldreader. Worldreader’s mission is simple: to make digital books available to as many children as possible in the developing world. In Sub-Saharan Africa alone, fifty percent of schools currently have few or no books. There’s no doubt that the challenge is huge, but so is the opportunity to make an enormous difference.
The process of making that difference is well underway. As of October 2012, Worldreader has distributed 229,000 e-books in three Sub-Saharan African countries. Many of those books are digitized versions of local literature and texts produced in cooperation with African publishers. Those works are important because children find texts from local publishers by local authors particularly engaging and can easily relate to the people and places in them. Furthermore, by discovering the best works by African authors, children learn more about their own histories and cultures.
The message of this blog is vital and urgent. Each of us has a unique and easy opportunity to make a huge impact on Worldreader’s work, as long as we act within the next two days. Here’s why: Worldreader is one of the nominated charities in American Giving Awards – the event hosted by NBC television and sponsored by Chase Bank. With your vote, Worldreader can win the one million dollar donation from the fund. It’s hard to imagine the difference that amount of money would make to the charity, but there’s no doubt that it would be game changing. So this blog is a petition. I’m asking you to go to the Worldreader homepage right now (http://www.worldreader.org/) and vote for this amazing charity. With just a click of your mouse you have the power to transform the lives of millions of children in the developing world. But please hurry; voting closes Monday the 3rd of December.
Finally, I want to offer my thanks to David and Colin for giving us this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make an enormous and positive difference to the lives of so many children in under-developed countries – our less-fortunate fellow citizens of tomorrow.
p.s. Please share and encourage your family,friends and colleagues to take a moment out of their day and click.