WOW Middle School Reading Ambassadors

WOW continues our new reading program in the 2022/23 school year for middle school youth! In our first year, this initiative ran parallel with programming at Roy Junior High School in the Weber School District of Roy, Utah. We shall see what partnerships form in the second year of programming. The ambassadors will meet in virtual, in-person or hybrid settings depending on what the situation warrants. As this programming is still new, some of the information on this page is subject to change, however it serves to provide an understanding of the program. The application is open!

Jackson, Zain, Nathan and Lily compile a list of books they suggest for middle school-aged readers.

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


Worlds of Words: Center of Global Literacies and Literatures Middle School Reading Ambassador initiative offers middle school students a college experience within the University of Arizona College of Education that focuses on books for middle school-aged readers. Ambassadors learn about adolescent literature under the direction of faculty and staff with expertise in children’s literature, education, library science and marketing.

Author Padma Venkatraman stands in the center of middle schoolers holding copies of her book.

Padma Venkatraman meets with the WOW Middle School Reading Ambassadors to discuss her novel, Born Behind Bars.

This program positions local 6-8th graders as reading ambassadors in their own schools. WOW Middle School Reading Ambassadors interact with published authors of literature for young people, 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’ 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 middle-school literature is its dynamic nature. The innovation and experimentation within the genre helps young people connect with the world through reading. In this way, those involved with the initiative will be true ambassadors.”


This program offers middle school youth 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 an event with the author. Reading 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.

“People 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 Middle School 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 one Saturday a month at Worlds of Words, 1430 E. Second St., Rm. 453. For more information on the Middle School 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 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 Jocelyn Gehring, 520.621.8223.


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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.

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 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 children 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.

Ambassadors' Instagram post for Day Zero includes the text 'Read with us' and a screen shot from the literature discussion conducted on Zoom.

Ambassadors went online for their literature discussion around Day Zero, then created an Instagram post to promote their reading.

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 either through book selection or browsing. Parents/caregivers are encouraged to do further research on these books and discuss book selections with their child.

Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi
Born Behind Bars by Venkatraman Padma
The Plentiful Darkness by Heather Kassner
Under the Broken Sky by Mariko Nagai

We have not finalized the scheduled authors for the 2022/23 cadre. Typically WOW 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

2021/22 Schedule for Ambassadors

August 28, 2021: Orientation, 10 a.m. – noon
September 25, 2021: Lit Discussion, 10 a.m. – noon
October 23, 2021: Author Event, 10 – 11 a.m.
November 20, 2021: Lit Discussion, 10 a.m. – noon
December 4, 2021: Author Event, 3:30 – 4:30 p.m.
Nothing in January
February 2022: Lit Discussion, 10 a.m. – noon
March 13, 2022: Author Event, 1 – 2 p.m.
March 12 and 13, 2022: Tucson Festival of Books
April 9, 2022: Read-a-thon, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
May 7, 2022: Author Event and Certificate Presentation, 10 a.m. – noon

Ambassadors meet author Kathleen Glasgow.

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

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