Worlds of Words: Center of Global Literacies and Literatures recognizes our lives have gone global. Communities in all parts of the world, from rural towns to large urban cities, are increasingly diverse due to global mobility. Rapid economic, social and technological changes connect people around the globe. No matter where we live, our daily lives interconnect through globalization in its differing forms. Knowledge of the world and an understanding of global perspectives have thus become a necessity, not a luxury. Children no longer have a decision about whether or not they will lead global lives–but they do need to decide how they will live in a global society.
One important resource for building bridges across cultures is global children’s literature. Literature provides an opportunity for children to go beyond a tourist perspective of gaining surface-level information about another culture. Literature expands children’s life spaces and takes them outside the boundaries of their lives to other places, times, and ways of living to participate in alternative ways of being in the world. Readers are invited to immerse themselves into story worlds to gain insights about how people live, feel, and think around the world in order to develop emotional connections and empathy as well as knowledge.
The goal of integrating global literature into classrooms and libraries is to challenge children and adolescents to understand and accept those different from themselves, thus breaking cycles of oppression and prejudice between people of different cultures. As young people read these books, they come to recognize the common feelings and needs they share with youth around the world, as well as to value the unique differences that each culture adds to the richness of our world. Literature provides a means of building bridges of intercultural understanding across countries and cultures. Through reading books from global cultures, young people connect to their own cultures as well as to the world beyond their homes.
Worlds of Words is committed to providing a range of resources to encourage educators at all levels to integrate global literature into the lives of children. The resources on this site grew out of work in schools around the world and the identification of needs, such as
• Access to titles of global literature for various age levels, themes and global cultures
• Critical evaluations of the cultural authenticity of books
• Ideas for integrating global literature into experiences with children in school and library contexts and in teacher education programs.
• Discussions of current issues related to global literature in order to become more informed as an educator
• Access to resources such as book lists, curricular strategies, author information, etc. related to global literature.
WOW has a number of publications including three peer-reviewed academic journals: a journal of classroom vignettes, a journal in English of critical book reviews of global books, and a journal in Spanish of critical book reviews of Spanish-language books. Additionally, the WOW website publishes a weekly blog with five distinct features, a searchable database, and other content. All of the journals and resources on the site are available free and without membership to provide the widest access possible.
In addition, WOW has a renovated center at the University of Arizona that includes a collection of 40,000 children’s and adolescent books that is open to the public and a special collection of original illustrations and first edition, signed books. Additional holdings include original art from published picturebook illustrators and other artifacts. External and internal events are scheduled at WOW, ranging from scholarly lectures to celebrations for children and families around new books. An exhibition/studio space is used for exhibitions and for residencies for children’s authors and illustrators. A workshop space is used for university courses on children’s literature and for workshops for teachers and children as well as guest lectures. A visiting scholar’s office houses scholars who are using the collection for their own research projects. Finally, WOW hosts various school groups and teen readers. Additionally, WOW provides materials on loan to schools, libraries, and literacy groups, such as language and culture book kits, global story boxes, and family story backpacks. Other outreach activities include participation in the Tucson Festival of Books and various projects in classrooms and libraries.
The collection in WOW is organized by regions of the world and focuses on global literature in English that is published and/or distributed in the United States. The books come from many global cultures and include a strong collection of Indigenous literature. The books in the collection are also available on the data base of the website and on World Cat, a data base available from libraries. The collection is open to the researchers, students, and community members on a daily basis, Monday-Saturday.
WOW is located within the College of Education, University of Arizona, and is supported by faculty and students from the department of Teaching, Learning and Sociocultural Studies. The WOW Executive Board is actively involved in the journals, blogs, and resources available on the website and meets twice a year to make decisions about the website and other outreach programs. WOW also collaborates with CERCLL, a federal center on less commonly taught languages, at the University of Arizona and has enjoyed the support of various foundations and private individuals for support of programs and outreach.
Inquiries about contributions can be made through the Lee O’Rourke, Director of Development, College of Education, 520.621.3413 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Questions or inquiries into Worlds of Words about any of the programs, events, or facilities or requests related to residencies should be directed to email@example.com or 520-621-9340.
Kathy G. Short, Director
Rebecca Ballenger, Associate Director
Alyssa Lara, Administrative Support