WOW Launches Teen Reading Ambassador Initiative

By Rebecca Ballenger, Coordinator of Outreach and Collections, Worlds of Words

Worlds of Words opened applications for a pilot program that positions local teens as reading ambassadors in their own high schools. Teens in the program interact with published authors of young adult literature, receive books by that author and share their experience with their peers to promote reading in their school communities. The Teen Reading Ambassador (TRA) initiative is administered by WOW in the University of Arizona College of Education.

Carolina Hoyos reads Refugee by Alan Grats, the inaugural book for the Teen Reading Ambassador initiative.

“The teen ambassadors will experience a combination of book discussions and hands-on workshops to deepen their understandings and to learn ways to promote reading,” says Kathy Short, Professor of Language, Reading and Culture and Director of WOW. “Additionally, they will learn about the writing and publishing process as they meet the authors. In many cases, these students will be among the earliest readers of those books.”

The program features a new book about every two months. Each reading cycle includes two meetings. At the first meeting, TRAs discuss the book and create a plan for sharing their thoughts about it with other students at their school. The following month ambassadors rejoin at an event with the author, to which the ambassadors can invite peers.

“Students accepted as TRAs will bring their enthusiasm for reading to a larger audience by talking about books in their communities and inviting other students at their schools to meet authors,” says Short. “Part of the value of young adult literature is its dynamic nature. The innovation and experimentation within the genre helps teens connect with the world through reading. In this way, teens involved with the initiative will be true ambassadors. ”

The pilot program will run February through August and a new call for applications will occur in the Fall of 2018. A team of University of Arizona personnel with expertise in young adult literature, education, library science and marketing run the initiative. In addition to each student receiving a free copy of the featured book, one copy will be donated to their school library and students will create displays around those books to encourage their peers to read it.

To apply to become a WOW Teen Reading Ambassador, students must complete the online application by January 26, 2018. Decisions will be returned by February 1. Ambassadors should be ready to meet immediately to pick up their first book, as their first author engagement coincides with the Tucson Festival of Books on March 10 and 11.

Worlds of Words is free to visit and open to the public on 9-5, Monday-Friday and 9-1 on Saturdays. For more information on the WOW in general or the Teen Reading Ambassador program specifically, contact wow@email.arizona.edu or by phone at 520.621.9340.

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