UA's Worlds of Words Grows by 1K New Books
With the most recent donation of books, Worlds of Words in the College of Education has introduced a World Language collection.

By Rebecca Ballenger, UA College of Education
June 6, 2017

World Language Photo.jpg

The World Language collection at Worlds of Words is located inside the classroom workshop at the UA College of Education. The collection is for research and public use.
The World Language collection at Worlds of Words is located inside the classroom workshop at the UA College of Education. The collection is for research and public use.

Worlds of Words in the University of Arizona's College of Education has added a World Language collection with more than 1,000 donated texts to its main collection of 36,000 global books.

Most of the newly donated books have been provided by students, faculty members and other friends of the collection. And of the new donations, more than 300 books in Russian, including Soviet-era texts, came directly from UA faculty members Brenda Frye of the Steward Observatory and Sergey Cherkis of the Department of Mathematics.

"Many Americans do not realize the high quality and range of books for children being published in countries around the world because they only see the small percentage that are translated into English," said WOW director Kathy Short.

In fact, it is likely that fewer than 3.7 percent of WOW's new World Language collection has a version translated into English, largely because of what the book industry calls a "translation gap," which has been attributed to a stereotype of Americans as culturally insulated or lacking curiosity, Short said. 

"Language is a barrier for publication in the U.S. as American publishers need people on staff with diverse linguistic skills in order to evaluate transcripts or to prepare translation samples," Short said. "Additionally, people in the U.S. have Western European perspectives and are more comfortable culturally with books coming from Western Europe. This explains why, of the small number of books translated to English, most are Western European."

Most publishers of translated works depend on academic or philanthropic support, indicating that the translation gap may not be addressed quickly enough for young people who already are connecting to the world through online platforms, Short said.

WOW's World Language collection includes books in many languages, such as Arabic, Korean and Swedish. The three largest sections are Chinese, Russian and Spanish.

"The collection provides support for community and University members who want access to picturebooks in world languages to facilitate language learning as well as scholars who want to research literature from particular global cultures," Short said.

None of the books is translated from published work in English, but a few of the books in the collection are translated from a language other than English into another world language. The bulk of books in the collection are published in their original language.

"I chose to donate to WOW so that Russian language and literature could be distributed to children of all ages in the Tucson community, hopefully for many years into the future," said Frye, an assistant astronomer and assistant professor with the UA's Steward Observatory.

Extra info

Housed in the UA's Education Building, Worlds of Words is in the Department of Teaching, Learning and Sociocultural, holding an estimated 36,000 volumes of children's and adolescent literature focusing on world cultures and Indigenous peoples.

Worlds of Words' exhibit "Imagination to Celebration: Publishing Journeys" is open to the public. The exhibit features the publishing journey of "Coyote School News" by Joan Sandin, an award-winning author, illustrator and translator. Sandin's original artwork hangs in the WOW studio, and the Mary J. Wong Collection showcases her journey getting the book published. Newspaper covers from two publications that feature the voices of young reporters, the Little Cowpuncher and Bear Essential News, also hang in the exhibit in the WOW hall gallery.

WOW is open to the public from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, excluding holidays.

The new World Language collection is located in the teaching workshop and classroom at Worlds of Words. The collection is free to visit and open to the public. For more information or to schedule a guided tour, email


Resources for the media

Kathy G. Short

UA College of Education