Globalizing the Common Core State Standards Exemplar List

The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and their variations influence K-12 curriculum, particularly in the teaching of literacy, across the U.S. and internationally. With funds from the Center for Educational Resources in Culture Language and Literacy (CERCLL), Worlds of Words (WOW) in the University of Arizona College of Education offers an alternative to the CCSS text exemplar list to assist educators searching for ways to globalize their classrooms and libraries.

Globalizing the Common Core State Standards, Odyssey Graphic Novel

Tucson High Magnet School senior, Parrish Ballenger, reads the graphic novelization of The Odyssey by Gareth Hinds based on Homer’s epic poem. Worlds of Words pairs this book with the CCSS exemplar The Odyssey by Homer, along with Here Lies Arthur by Phillip Reeve, Sita’s Ramayana by Samhita Ami and Tiger Moon by Antonia Michaelis.

“The overrepresentation of classics on the CCSS exemplar list does not reflect the cultural diversity of students’ lives and communities and is problematic from many perspectives, one of which is that students soon conclude that books are of little relevance to their personal lives, discouraging their continued engagement as readers,” says Dr. Kathy Short, professor of education and director of WOW.

Short, who specializes in children’s literature, developed global book lists of fiction and nonfiction books organized by grade level bands and measures of complexity. Accordingly, these lists include books paired with the CCSS exemplars. Short also found global fiction and nonfiction to recommend that does not fit a pairing but are books students find engaging and that connect them to global cultures. The evaluation process included appropriate fit with school curriculum and strong cultural connections.

The project also offers suggestions for how the global lists can be used. For example, educators can pair books where students read the classic text, whether it’s Frog and Toad in K-1 or Romeo and Juliet in 11-12, alongside a contemporary global book that has a similar theme and complexity. Everyone reads both books and makes connections across the texts.

“The opportunities offered through literature invites students to go beyond a tourist perspective of gaining surface-level information about another culture,” Short says. “Because literature expands children’s life spaces, they travel outside the boundaries of their lives to other places, times, and ways of living in order to participate in alternative ways of being in the world.”

Readers who immerse themselves into story worlds gain insights about how people around the world live, feel and think. They develop emotional connections and empathy as well as knowledge. These connections go beyond the surface knowledge of celebrations, food and facts about a country to the values and beliefs that lie at the core of each culture. Readers also go beyond the media emphasis on catastrophe, terrorism and war that often results in superficial views, fear and stereotypes.

By integrating global literature into classrooms and libraries, educators challenge students to understand and accept those different from themselves, thus breaking cycles of oppression and prejudice. Students recognize the feelings and needs they share with people around the world and value the differences each culture adds to the richness of our world. Through reading books from global cultures, students also come to know their own culture. They see how people of the world view them, not just how they view the world.

The term global literature refers to any book that is set in a global setting outside of the reader’s own global location. For those from the U.S., global literature includes books authored by Americans and by insiders to a global culture. This definition needs to remain flexible based on how readers define their cultural location, not how others define them.

More information is on the Worlds of Words website for educators who want to know more about the Globalizing the Common Core State Standards project or to read the global book lists. Educators are also encouraged to learn more about the project funder, CERCLL, by exploring their website at


Writer’s Note: WOW uses “picturebook” as one compound word rather than an adjective and noun to emphasize the relationship between the text and art in these books. You can’t tell the story without both the words and images. “Picturebook” indicates their equal importance. WOW understands that the editorial decision may be made to use “picture book” within the release, but please retain “picturebook” in quotations.

Housed at the University of Arizona, College of Education, Worlds of Words is in the Teaching, Learning and Sociocultural Department and holds an estimated 36,000 volumes of children’s and adolescent literature focusing on world cultures and Indigenous peoples. WOW is open to the public from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays excluding holidays. Find more information about WOW at

The University of Arizona, College of Education advances the study and practice of education and demonstrates relationships between study and practice. The College of Education accomplishes this mission by fulfilling, with the highest possible standards of excellence, four equally important and related functions:
• Prepare persons for professional roles in education and education-related fields
• Conduct research and engage in scholarship directly and indirectly related to educational concerns, issues, and activities
• Provide leadership in the conduct, advancement, study, and evaluation of the process of education, education policy, and in educational organizations at local, state, national, and international levels
• Provide service and support to local, state, national, and international educational agencies

Established in 1885, the University of Arizona, the state’s super land-grant university with two medical schools, produces graduates who are real-world ready through its 100% Student Engagement initiative. Recognized as a global leader and ranked 16 for the employability of its graduates, UA is also a leader in research, bringing more than $606 million in research investment each year, and ranking 20 among all public universities. UA is advancing the frontiers of interdisciplinary scholarship and entrepreneurial partnerships, and is a member of the Association of American of Universities, the 62 leading public and private research universities. It benefits the state with an estimated economic impact of $8.3 billion annually.

The Center for Educational Resources in Culture, Language and Literacy (CERCLL) is a Title VI Language Resource Center funded in part by the US Department of Education and housed in the College of Humanities at the University of Arizona. They research culture, language and literacy within second and other languages, especially in less commonly taught languages (LCTLs). They also provide educators with teaching resources and opportunities for meaningful professional development. CERCLL will be offering a summer institute for teachers who wish to learn more about the CCSS and using them in their classes: “Reading Globally: Critical Issues in Global Literature for Children and Adolescents,” led by Kathy Short and other experts and authors in global literature, June 25-27, 2018.

4 thoughts on “Globalizing the Common Core State Standards Exemplar List

  1. Sarah says:

    This sounds like a great opportunity for students in all grade levels to have access to more texts outside of what is available to them in their schools or public library (which are probably similar). One of the ways students need to make connections (especially in the adolescent years) is their connections to real life events and situations. There is great value in the opportunity for students to make comparisons with texts relatable to their own contexts and what is relatable to students in other cultures of similar age and situations. Although there are cultural differences, there are some similarities. Students could also see the differences in American culture versus others. This reminds me of universities’ interlibrary loan system. Having access to different stories and text may spark a new interest that the student could possibly never discover. This also obviously allows for global connections between cultures and the opportunity to examine humanity. Students have the chance to see what makes all of us the same and what makes us different. This also shows students what can be learned from people different from themselves.

    • Kathy Short says:

      For adolescents, the global lists provide two points of access. One is the use of YA literature which brings the themes of the adult classics that are typically read in school into their own world and through the lens of their lives and issues. The majority of the books they are required to read are adult classics where the experiences are far removed from their lives. The second point is to connect to the lives of teens in global communities to find both what connects them as well as the differences that are unique to each community.

  2. Kayce says:

    This blog post hit home to me. Now, as an ELA curriculum facilitator I have more say in what goes into our curriculum in the County I work. I just brought up to my team that we were in desperate need of bringing in contemporary books for grades 3-12. Not that the classics that the students read were not important for them to be exposed to, but that we also needed other extended text that would be more engaging, more relevant, and more culturally appropriate. The majority of our school district is African Americans and they only read about Caucasian people. My team agrees and we are in the process of choosing at least one new extended text to each grade level. I am going to be sending this post to my team because now I want us to think even deeper about global literature. This reminds me also of critical literacies. I found this quote to stand out to me, and it will be what I bring to the table as my reasoning, “By integrating global literature into classrooms and libraries, educators challenge students to understand and accept those different from themselves, thus breaking cycles of oppression and prejudice. Students recognize the feelings and needs they share with people around the world and value the differences each culture adds to the richness of our world. Through reading books from global cultures, students also come to know their own culture. They see how people of the world view them, not just how they view the world.” Also, thank you very much for including the global book list. It is very helpful!!

  3. Kathy Short says:

    I agree, these global lists do not take away from the value of well-known classic texts, but they do make evident that the well-known texts are not enough. They need to be paired with recent books that connect readers to our current world with all of its rich diversity. These texts help kids see that difference and cultural diversity are a rich resource, not a problem to be solved.

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