WOW Middle School Reading Ambassadors

Worlds of Words continues our new reading program in the 2024/25 school year for middle school youth! The ambassadors will meet in virtual, in-person or hybrid settings depending on what the situation warrants. 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!

WOW Reading Ambassadors 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, podcasts 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.”

A middle schooler talks into a mic as another listens

Quin and Minerva record an episode of the WOW Reads podcast. Photo by Bob Bingham Photography.

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 the Office of Youth Safety at 520.621.7286 or


Download Permissions as a PDF


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 Saturdays during the school year. 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 Reading Ambassador program. However, because some of the books may contain mature content, we want parents/guardians to be engaged.

Four middle school ambassadors and a guest pose with Heather Kassner, author of The Plentiful Darkness

Middle School Reading Ambassadors with Heather Kassner, author of The Plentiful Darkness.

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.

Across the Desert by Dusti Bowling
Alebrijes by Donna Barba Higuera
Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi
Born Behind Bars by Padma Venkatraman
Clarice the Brave by Lisa McMann
Distress Signal by Mary E. Lambert
The Hidden Knife by Melissa Marr
The Kingdom Over the Sea by Zohra Nabi
A Little Like Waking by Adam Rex
The Many Assassinations of Samir, the Seller of Dreams by Daniel Nayeri
The Plentiful Darkness by Heather Kassner
Under the Broken Sky by Mariko Nagai

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

Teen Reading Ambassadors' Graffiti Walls

Predicted 2023/24 Schedule for Ambassadors

August 2024: Orientation, 1 to 3 p.m.
September 2024: Lit Discussion, 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
October 2024: Author Event, 10 a.m. to noon
November 2024: Lit Discussion, 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
December 3, 2022: Author Event, 10 a.m. to noon
Nothing in January
February 2025: Lit Discussion, 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 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.

Check out what our past Middle School Reading Ambassadors had to say: I was often wrong about how authors would act, and it was cool. - I loved the fact that we could meet the authors of the books. It was like a dream come true. - I liked that I could meet authors of books in person or online and I could ask them questions and learn from them! - I felt like I was having fun with the other kids when we were talking about the books. - I liked meeting new people who really like books! I also liked meeting and knowing about authors. Now I have a deeper connection to the books that I met the authors of!

2 thoughts on “WOW Middle School Reading Ambassadors

  1. Cecelia Aguilar Ortiz says:

    Hello, my daughter applied for the middle school reading ambassador program. Wondering if participants have already been chosen or if there is any information or forms that are still required for her application to be complete.

    I look forward to hearing from you.

    Cecelia Aguilar Ortiz (mom)
    Magdalena Aguilar Ortiz – [email address redacted]

    • Hi Cecelia! Our records show a different email address was used for the application. We sent the orientation materials to that address on 8/15/22. We will resend the materials to the email you shared here. We look forward to meeting Magdalena! RB

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