NABU is an app that provides reading material for children in their native language.

Winner 2016
Health Afghanistan, Australia, congo, Congo - Kinshasa, Haiti, Kenya, Nigeria, Philippines, Romania, Rwanda, Ukraine, United States

Key Facts

  • NABU imagines a literate world, where every child has free access to the essential building blocks of literacy.
  • NABU develops content in local languages such as Kinyarwanda and Haitian Creole.
  • Content is uploaded to the low-bandwidth reading app,, available via IOS or Android.
  • NABU’s story creation process is equitable and community inclusive.
  • NABU has reached over 300,000 families globally.
With NABU, children learn to read in their native language.

Key Features

NABU is a digital reading app and a mother tongue publishing platform, which addresses the three primary problems that inhibit children from learning to read.

Two-hundred and fifty million children in the developing world (5-12 years of age) attend school but never learn to read. There are several reasons for this, but they are primarily that (1) children do not have sufficient access to reading materials, at home or at school; (2) reading materials that exist are not in the child’s mother tongue but rather in English, French or similar; and (3) there is limited ability to build engagement and literacy with resources that do exist.

NABU is an award-winning literacy organization recognized by the US Library of Congress for our best practice globally. NABU imagines a literate world, where every child has free access to the essential building blocks of literacy. We develop content in local languages such as Kinyarwanda and Haitian Creole with millions of speakers but almost no children’s books. This content is desperately needed, as 40% of children globally are not taught in a language they speak or understand. Our data-driven, innovative, and sustainable approach towards ending illiteracy involves hiring and training local authors and illustrators to create authentic, culturally relevant, digital children’s storybooks, in a language the child already speaks. These books are then uploaded on our low bandwidth reading app available via IOS or Android, complete with the ability to capture user metrics. In just 18 months, NABU has reached over 300,000 families globally.

Social Impact

NABU’s service model focuses on three elements: content publishing by commissioning local authors and illustrators, free distribution through our digital and print platforms, and engagement by employing local Reading Ambassadors and teams to drive reading programs.

Research demonstrates that a child needs at least 150 leveled mother tongue reading stories from grade 1-3 to gain basic literacy skills. NABU begins by training and commissioning local creators to create leveled collections of culturally relevant, mother-tongue stories for children in community-based workshops. These books are distributed for free through our digital reading application, which is optimized for low bandwidth environments and local mobile devices (and also in print where needed). Finally, we employ teams of Reading Ambassadors to go out into the community and engage readers as well as develop media campaigns with government bodies, local not for profits, the corporate sector, schools, TV, and radio.

We carefully track and analyze data to understand increases in literacy among our users. NABU is culture-centric. We chose our service model based on evidence that demonstrated that mother-tongue reading was the most cost-effective intervention in early grade reading and one of the most efficient pathways towards tackling global illiteracy. Culturally relevant stories are essential to a child’s reading journey, and in the long term, accelerates progressive social change within communities. NABU’s story creation process is equitable and community inclusive, which means a whole new generation of young artists are being mentored and economically remunerated for their craft. This approach also empowers individuals to become self-advocating drivers of social change.

Future Plans

Through diverse partnerships and collaborations, NABU is committed to making children’s books accessible to every child in the world by 2030. NABU’s goal is to create and distribute 150 high-quality, leveled storybooks in each of the four most underserved and widely spoken mother-tongue languages in the world. The four languages we have identified – Swahili, Filipino, Tamil, and Hausa, are spoken by over 40 million children in Africa and Southeast Asia, yet virtually no high-quality children’s books exist in these languages. With respect to the magnitude of our goal, we are fully aware that we can’t do this alone. We continue to seek out partnerships that will help support our efforts giving everyone an opportunity to participate in the journey of eradicating illiteracy for good.

Main Target Group

Parents and children.

Main User

Early-grade learners and children aged 5-10.


NABU GLOBAL INC Christopher Thompson, Director of Development
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Profile last edited on: October 17, 2023