WOW Teen Reading Ambassadors

WOW hosts a new cadre of Ambassadors in the 2024/25 school year using hybrid programming. The information on this page may or may not be updated to reflect such changes, however it serves to provide an understanding of the program. The application is open!

J. Elle in foreground taking a selfie with members of the reading ambassador program enthusiastically posing in the background

Teen Reading Ambassadors with author J.Elle at the 2022 Tucson Festival of Books. Photo courtesy of J. Elle.

How It Works
UArizona Office of Youth Safety
Guidelines and Helpful Information
Reading List


Worlds of Words Center of Global Literacies and Literatures 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. Worlds of Words 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.”


This program 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. Worlds of Words donates a second copy to the ambassadors’ schools. Students have created book displays, flyers, social media posts, podcasts 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 alumna 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 1 to 3 p.m. 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


Worlds of Words follows University of Arizona policies regarding unenrolled minors. For more information about youth safety on the UArizona 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 UArizona. For questions about policies regarding unenrolled minors on the UArizona campus, please contact the Office of Youth Safety at 520.621.7286 or

Teen with pink hair speaks into a microphone

Echo records an episode of the WOW Reads. Photo by Bob Bingham Photography.


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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 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 typically 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 UArizona vacation and holiday schedule and closures.

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.

“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. “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.

Profile of two ambassadors actively listening at an author event.

Ambassadors Kerme and Annie listen to author Larry Dane Brimner discuss his research and writing process. Photo by Bob Bingham Photography.

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 and discuss book selections with their teen.

The Agathas by Kathleen Glasgow and Liz Lawson
Ancestor Approved by Cynthia Leitich Smith
Anger Is a Gift by Mark Oshiro
Aristotle and Dante Dive into the Waters of the World by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Barely Missing Everything by Matt Mendez
Blacklisted!: Hollywood, the Cold War, and the First Amendment by Larry Dane Brimner
The Bridge by Bill Konigsberg
The Broke Hearts by Matt Mendez
The Colliding Worlds of Mina Lee by Ellen Oh
Day Zero by Kelly deVos
Distress Signal by Mary E. Lambert
Dread Nation by Justina Ireland
Echo North by Joanna Ruth Meyer
Echoes of Grace by Guadalupe García McCall
Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley
Glitter by Aprilynne Pike
How to Make Friends with the Dark by Kathleen Glasgow
Into the Heartless Wood by Joanna Ruth Meyer
A Little Like Waking by Adam Rex
A Magic Steeped in Poison by Judy I. Lin
The Porcupine of Truth by Bill Konigsberg
Refugee by Alan Gratz
Sad Perfect by Stephanie Elliot
Up In Flames by Hailey Alcaraz
The Voting Booth by Brandy Colbert
Walk On Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson
Watch Us Rise by Renée Watson and Ellen Hagan
Wings of Ebony by J. Elle
Your Heart, My Sky: Love In a Time of Hunger by Margarita Engle

We have not finalized the scheduled authors for the 2024/25 cadre. Typically Worlds of Words selects the first author and ambassadors select subsequent authors or illustrators after a book browse.

“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 alumna, 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' Graffiti Walls

Predicted 2023/24 Schedule for Ambassadors

August 2024: Orientation, 1 to 3 p.m.
September 2024: Lit Discussion, 1 to 4 p.m.
October 2024: Author Event, 1 to 3 p.m.
November 2024: Lit Discussion, 1 to 4 p.m.
December 3, 2022: Author Event, 1 to 3 p.m.
Nothing in January
February 2025: Lit Discussion, 1 to 4 p.m.
March 2025: Author Event, TBD
March 2025: Tucson Festival of Books, TBD
April 2025: Read-A-Thon, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
May 2025: Author Event and Certificate Presentation, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Ambassadors meet author Kathleen Glasgow.

Ambassadors meet author Kathleen Glasgow, who lead them in a writing exercise.