Salas de Libros Mediator Workshop

Join us for a two-day immersive workshop for Salas de Libros mediators. We provide a certificate, resources needed to host a Sala/Salon and support in strategies for building communities of readers. Breakfast and lunch provided. We will also have a kick-off social and reception, Friday, May 17, from 5 to 7 p.m. on campus!

If you would like to attend this workshop and become a Salas de Libros Mediator, apply now.

Salas de Libros is a reading promotion program based on a highly successful program from Mexico called Salas de Lectura. Salas refers to spaces in houses, community centers and public parks, where people gather in conversation around sofas, cushions and comfortable chairs to build literate communities around books and civic engagement. Literary salons are based on Black and African American social, cultural and intellectual gatherings that occurred during the 1920/30s. Salas and Salons are intergenerational by design, engaging children, youth and elders, led by community members known as mediators who establish meaningful bridges between books and readers to encourage immersion into reading and conversation.

The Worlds of Words Center and the Southern Arizona Writing Project invite passionate readers and community members to apply to be a part of the second cohort of Literary Mediators. Interested mediators should be avid readers, be willing to promote a love of reading and literacy for social change, live in Tucson or southern Arizona, commit to attending this two-day workshop, and volunteer to facilitate a Sala/Salon in their community in Summer/Fall 2024.

Applications for consideration are due by May 1, 2024. Apply here:

For questions, please email or any of the project Co-Directors, Carol Brochin (, Desiree Cueto ( or Kathy Short (

Forbidden Stories: The Best of the Best in Banned Books

This event has occurred in the past.

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Book challenges in the U.S. doubled in 2022, a troubling statistic given the significance of books in telling the stories of diverse youth. In this workshop, we share our lists of “the best of the best” challenged YA and children’s books and provide resources for responding to these challenges.

Aida Salazar, author of The Moon Within and co-editor of Calling the Moon: 16 Period Stories by BIPOC Authors, will join us for a virtual talk. Registrants will receive a free copy of The Moon Within and afterward there will be a YA/Children’s book giveaway.

This event includes the following Presentations:
The Best Banned YA Books by BIPOC Authors, Presented by Sybil Durand
The Best Banned Children’s Books on Gender and Sexuality, Presented by Desirée Cueto
The Best International Books that Challenge Book Banning in the U.S., Presented by Kathy Short
Aida Salazar On Writing Forbidden Stories (Live Virtual Visit)

Paid parking is available at the Second Street Garage just west of the UArizona College of Education and in the parking lot north of First and Vine. The WOW Center is also located just off of the 2nd St. Streetcar stop, which is free.

To request disability-related accommodations that would ensure your full participation in this event, please email or call 520.621.9340.

Event details may change.

A Dozen Books on African Mythology: The Significance of Black Mermaids and Sirens

By Desiree Cueto and Dorea Kleker, The University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ

African diaspora folklore, myths and legends have been passed down through oral traditions from generation to generation. A prominent figure in stories told across different African nations is that of the mermaid. The half human/half fish water spirit is referred to by different names depending on the specific African nation and unique cultures within. For example, Mami Wata is a deity whose story is told throughout different parts of West Africa. She is known for bestowing wealth and power as well as destruction. A similar figure, called Yemoja is known to the Yoruba people of Nigeria to be a giver of life, and La Sirene is a Haitian spirit of the sea. Over time, the oral stories of mermaids and sirens have been written and published throughout the world and have become the inspiration for several recent picture books and novels. This set of books features twelve books that center on Black mermaids and African mythology. Continue reading

WOW Recommends: Book of the Month

WOW Recommends: Freedom Swimmer

Photo of a boy in the water at night preparing for a swim.I recommend Freedom Swimmer because of the distinctiveness of the topic as well as the literary quality. This historical fiction novel powerfully captures life for children under the Communist Party during China’s Cultural Revolution. The book is inspired by events that transpired in the life of the author’s father after Mao Zedong seized control of the of government from his intellectual and political adversaries within the Communist Party of China. Continue reading

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MTYT: From My Window

Maria V. Acevedo-Aquiño, University of Texas A&M, San Antonio, Desiree W. Cueto, Western Washington University, and Dorea Kleker, University of Arizona

For the final week of July, Desiree and Dorea give their takes on From My Window, a picturebook which shares a name with a previous book discussed this month.

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MTYT: From My Window: Children at Home During COVID-19

Maria V. Acevedo-Aquiño, University of Texas A&M, San Antonio, Desiree W. Cueto, Western Washington University, and Dorea Kleker, University of Arizona

Continuing their discussion of “windows” in recent picturebooks, Dorea and Maria give their takes on From My Window: Children at Home During COVID-19.

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MTYT: Outside, Inside

Maria V. Acevedo-Aquiño, University of Texas A&M, San Antonio, Desiree W. Cueto, Western Washington University, and Dorea Kleker, University of Arizona

This month we consider the theme of “windows” as we discuss four recently published books, all with global connections. Windows provide distinct vantage points from which to consider our communities—people, spaces, relationships—and our place among them. While two of these books are centered specifically on the pandemic, we didn’t intend for this to be our focus. However, as we responded, it became clear that we couldn’t ignore the impacts the last year has had on our lives, our communities, the questions we wanted to ask one another and our visions for what comes next.

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A Long Time Coming: Representations of Male Queerness in Children’s Literature

Donna Bulatowicz, Montana State University, Billings, MT, and Desiree Cueto, Western Washington University, WA, with Gavin McCormick

This series of WOW Currents, “A Long Time Coming,” centers on the progress made toward diversifying children’s literature and on the need to further this effort. In this final segment, we look at the evolution of LGBTQ+ books. The importance of authentic depictions in these books cannot be overemphasized, as Ellen Oh wrote on her blog, “Because queer kids are still killing themselves over being different (or being told that they’re different) and the greater representation they have in books, the less alone they’ll feel.” Continue reading

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A Long Time Coming: Representations of Muslim Characters in Children’s Literature

By Donna Bulatowicz, Montana State University Billings, MT, and Desiree Cueto, Western Washington University, WA with Alicen Anijo

Cover of One Green Apple depicting a yong girl in a light colored hijab holding an apple with an apple orchard in the background, where other children pick apples.Even though roughly 1% of U.S. adults identify as Muslim (Pew Research Center 2020), few books published in the United States authentically portray this community. This leads to challenges in finding books for Muslim children that represent their religious identity. It also poses a problem for non-Muslim children who need to see religious diversity represented in literature. Books are one way to mitigate prejudice; thus, the importance of a multitude of authentic portrayals of Muslim main characters in books can make a difference. Continue reading