As a middle schooler, at just 14 years old, Chance Wilson founded WGI Worldwide Company, a global education company dedicated to transforming how people learn around the world. Today at 21 years old, Chance is the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of WGI and has expanded his company’s impact and reach globally. Scholastic and WGI are teaming up to continue to give children everywhere the motivation and tools needed to learn to read and write.
We sat down for a virtual conversation with Chance to talk about his passion for education, entrepreneurship, and hopes for the future. Below is the full conversation.
Q: Tell us, what sparked you to take action at such a young age to promote literacy?
Chance Wilson: As a child my mother read to me every night. Once I got older, I started reading everything I could on my own. Literacy was such a powerful escape for me. So when I was in the eighth grade and saw classmates who couldn’t read, it shocked me. I knew it was wrong and I knew I had to do something about it.
Q: Have there been any reading role models in your life who have inspired you along the way? If so, how did they impact your life?
CW: My mother was certainly the first reading role model in my life. From there it was my third grade teacher, Ms. Hope Schilling, who challenged me to always keep reading. Another reading role model for me, and my personal hero, is President John F. Kennedy. President Kennedy himself was an author and, like me, found solace in the pages of a book.
Q: How does WGI support students across the country and around the world?
CW: WGI started out in my hometown of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. We recruited local volunteers made up of students and business professionals to go into schools and read to kids. It was an informal effort that really resonated in the community. We then created a formal curriculum and implemented it locally, with volunteers teaching the material. After some local successes we spread that model to different cities around the world over the course of six years.
Right before the pandemic we decided to shift our model to be digital. We felt an app that could teach these literacy skills and could potentially reach more people than just in-person volunteers. We partnered with General Electric and started developing what became the app-based education platform Lyra. Ironically COVID-19 hit the world right as the app was being developed—the timing for such a tool was perfect.
Now, our focus is spreading literacy through Lyra and digital channels in general. We’re proud to now be teaming up with Scholastic to inspire the next generation to read, which is something core to both our missions.
Q: We’re excited to collaborate with WGI! As part of our work together, we’ll be amplifying the power of reading aloud. What most excites you about this initiative?
CW: Research shows that reading aloud to children is one of the most important parts of literacy development. To support this, we are launching a campaign where noteworthy people will read from Scholastic books to children around the world. Hopefully through this campaign, and other areas in which we’ll be working together, WGI and Scholastic can encourage the next generation of readers.
Q: We’d love to know, what were your favorite childhood books? And what are you reading now?
CW: As a child my favorite book was If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff. In my teenage years I became a massive fan of the Twilight franchise by Stephenie Meyer. I had all the Twilight books and even had posters of Bella, Edward, and Jacob on my wall. A little embarrassing to say now but it’s true!
I recently read The Last Great Ride by the late Brandon Tartikoff. Brandon made history when he became the youngest president of NBC at only 31 years old. He took the network from last in the ratings to first during the 80s. It was inspiring to read about another young person who set out to do big things in the world.
Q: What advice do you have for kids who may want to follow in your entrepreneurial footsteps one day to make a positive difference in the world?
CW: My advice for kids today would be to read—read a lot. Read books, newspapers, blogs, whatever you can get your hands on. As you learn more about the world from reading then you should decide what role you want to play in it. You really can do anything in the world so think big. Once you make that decision, then pursue it with all your heart.
Image courtesy of Chance Wilson