WOW Teen Reading Ambassadors

INTRODUCTION

Worlds of Words Teen Reading Ambassador initiative offers high school students a college experience within the University of Arizona College of Education that focuses on books for teens. Ambassadors learn about young adult literature under the direction of faculty and staff with expertise in children’s literature, education, library science and marketing.

Teen Reading Ambassador George Ballenger introduces author Bill Konigsberg

Teen Reading Ambassador George Ballenger introduces Bill Konigsberg, author of The Porcupine of Truth.

This program positions local teens as reading ambassadors in their own schools. WOW Teen Reading Ambassadors 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. Copies of the books read by the ambassadors are also donated to the ambassadors’ high school libraries.

“Ambassadors 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 Kathy Short, Professor in Teaching, Learning and Sociocultural Studies and Director of Worlds of Words. “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.”

HOW IT WORKS

This initiative offers teens a unique opportunity to explore books in ways they rarely experience in other contexts. Each book cycle occurs over the course of two months. Ambassadors first discuss the book and create plans for how to share it with peers. The next month, they host a free, public event with the author. Ambassadors receive a free copy of the books they discuss. WOW donates a second copy to the ambassadors’ schools. Students have created book displays, flyers, social media posts and other engagements to encourage their peers to read.

“High Schoolers who are interested in getting college experience or working with college professors should apply,” says Teen Reading Ambassador George Ballenger. She enjoys the literature discussions and appreciates the freedom she experiences in organizing and planning the author events. She says, “I like that we’ve held more of the power…. We are encouraged to do a lot by ourselves.”

Teen Reading Ambassadors with Alan Gratz

Teen Reading Ambassadors with Alan Gratz, author of Refugee.

To become a Teen Reading Ambassador, students must complete the online application. Applications will be accepted through the summer each year with start dates in the Fall. Meetings typically occur from 10 a.m. to noon on one Saturday a month at Worlds of Words, 1430 E. Second St., Rm. 453. For more information on the Teen Reading Ambassadors or general information about Worlds of Words, email wow@email.arizona.edu.

UOFA OFFICE YOUTH SAFETY

Worlds of Words follows University of Arizona policies regarding unenrolled minors. For more information about Youth Safety on the UofA campus, please visit the Office of Youth Safety website. All personnel overseeing the Teen Reading Ambassadors have been through a background check through UAPD that includes fingerprint checks. Additionally, they have gone through youth safety training through the UofA. For questions about policies regarding unenrolled minors on the UofA campus, please contact Jocelyn Gehring, 520.621.8223.

2019/20 PAPERWORK

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GUIDELINES AND HELPFUL INFORMATION

Worlds of Words

Worlds of Words is committed to creating an international network of people who share the vision of bringing books and children together, thereby opening windows on the world. We encourage thoughtful dialogue around global literature so that children can reflect on their own cultural experiences and connect to the experiences of children across the globe.
Worlds of Words: Center for Global Literacies and Literatures is a center within the University of Arizona College of Education. The collection holds 40,000 books and original art from published picturebooks. The space includes our main collection, the Mary J. Wong collection, classroom, studio, and several private work areas. The space is open to the public from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday. We follow the UofA vacation and holiday schedule.

In addition to the literature discussions and author visits ambassadors participate in, WOW offers free programming for the public all year around. Please feel free to join us at any of our author/illustrator workshops for younger children, exhibits, and other events. WOW also offers free tours and school field trips.

WOW has extensive online content for preservice teachers, teachers, teachers educators and others who share our interest in global stories for young people. This includes three peer-reviewed academic journals, a blog with five distinct features, and a catalog of international books. All these online resources are available free to the public.

Sanctioned Activity

While ambassadors are encouraged to promote reading as part of their experience, the only sanctioned activities take place during scheduled meetings in Worlds of Words.

“Ambassadors 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.”

Reading List

Ambassador literature discussions include whole group and small group work to explore books in depth. By participating in literature discussions students engage in critical thinking and reflection as they read, discuss, and respond to books.

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

Typically, ambassadors have a choice in the books they choose and so we can’t always give parents/guardians advance notice. For this reason, we encourage parents/guardians to stay engaged with their teens regarding the program. In this way, parents/guardians can approve readings if they feel it necessary, but also this will allow ambassadors a chance to practice their advocacy for reading. Books are typically selected based on thematic connections, student interest, and author availability. These selections will also be read by personnel overseeing the Teen Reading Ambassador program. However, because some of the books may contain mature content, we want parents/guardians to be engaged.

To help you get to know the types of books selected by ambassadors and program coordinators, please see the following list of books/authors the ambassadors encountered in previous programming. Parents/caregivers are encouraged to do further research on these books.

Barely Missing Everything by Matt Mendez
Blacklisted!: Hollywood, the Cold War, and the First Amendment by Larry Dane Brimner
Glitter by Aprilynne Pike
Refugee by Alan Gratz
Sad Perfect by Stephanie Elliot
The Porcupine of Truth by Bill Konigsberg
Walk On Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson
Watch Us Rise by Renée Watson and Ellen Hagan

We have scheduled our first two authors. Ambassadors will read Echo North by Joanna Ruth Meyers and How to Make Friends with the Dark by Kathleen Glasgow. Ambassadors will select an author or illustrator who committed to the Tucson Festival of Books for their third book and will choose their fourth book after a book browse. Depending on the progression of the program, we will have a fifth book for the end-of-program Certificate Presentation.

“Joining the Teen Reading Ambassadors gave me the chance to meet other teens who were truly excited to read, and allowed me to share and discuss books for fun. I was exposed to stories that I had never considered reading, and discussing the books lead to more questions, making me want read and reread books for my own benefit,” says Teen Reading Ambassador alumnus, Pilar Muller. “Being a Teen Reading Ambassador helped me gain confidence when talking to my peers, telling them about all the amazing books I read.”

Teen Reading Ambassadors' Grafitti Walls

Predicted Schedule for Ambassadors

August 17: Orientation, 1-3 p.m.
September 21: Lit Discussion, 1-3 p.m.
October 19: Author Event, 1-3 p.m.
November 16: Lit Discussion, 1-3 p.m.
December 7: Author Event, 1-3 p.m.
Nothing in January
Feb: Lit Discussion, TBD
March 14 and 15: Tucson Festival of Books, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
April: Lit Discussion, TBD
May: Author Event, TBD
TBD: Certificate Presentation