Digital books may read to the reader, allowing parents with the lowest levels of literacy to explore stories with their children and help break the chain of illiteracy. An interactive electronic format also allows including multiple languages without sacrificing space on a page for attractive images-both key features for teaching young children to read in a setting where multiple languages are spoken in the home, or where a mother tongue is not the language of instruction. This paper describes collaborative development of a digital, multi-language reading tool that facilitates translation of local stories by Kenyan community groups, led by a librarian, into a mother tongue. Despite being built faithfully using a well-established design methodology in an iterative process among beneficiaries, program leaders, and technologists, and in a process embedded in a program also designed according to those design standards, tool development has faced serious challenges. This paper uses a principal agent model to identify technology-mediated communication and spatial distance among critical participants as major hindrances to progress. Analysis reveals critical disparities between, on one hand, the design thinking of development practitioners and funders, which rhetorically promote a circular, dynamic, participatory design process, and, on the other hand, traditional funding structures which impose at least partial adherence to a top-down approach.