Discovering "Worlds of Words" at UA's College of Education

When I set out to find the Worlds of Words collection, I knew little beyond that it was located in the basement of the Education Building.  After a few unsuccessful attempts in various stairwells, I opened a door and knew I had found the right place.  The walls of the stairwell were covered in posters promoting literacy with bright, colorful illustrations all pulling me forward into an incredible collection of children's books.

The most immediately striking thing about WOW is the sheer number of books they house.  There are books everywhere, filling shelves in four rooms, covering tables, sometimes even stacked on top of each other on the shelves in sections where there wasn't quite enough space.  This impressive collection is housed in a series of interconnected classrooms which have been converted into a library space with tables and chairs scattered throughout.  The lighting is slightly dim and the atmosphere cool and quiet, a perfect respite from the world above.

The books themselves are simply irresistible.  I had plans to start my visit by walking through the whole collection, but I got stuck at the first shelf I passed, lured in by the history-based picture books nestled in between contemporary-fiction picture books and young adult novels.  The collection includes books on history, art, music, and science, picture books and chapter books, young adult novels, and collections of short stories.  Also included is a small selection of books discussing difficult topics including drugs, smoking, and abuse.

The centerpiece of the collection, however, is the huge International Collection of Children's and Adolescent Literature (ICCAL).  The books are divided up by geographical region with a selection of picture and chapter books for each section.   Located in a side room is a collection of books by or about different Native American tribes, as well as a section of books by Arizona authors and illustrators.   There's also a selection of books in nearly two-dozen languages, including an array of bilingual books in Spanish and English.

And there's still more: WOW has a sizable collection of children's poetry books, alphabet books, rhymes and riddles, and even a shelf of wordless books.  The poetry collection includes a large number of volumes by Children's Poet Laureate Jack Prelutsky as well as Paul Janeczko, but it has a wide variety of lesser-seen children's poetry books as well.

In the future, WOW hopes to move to a larger, better-designed area on the fourth floor of the Education Building, but for now, it's worth a trek into the basement to see this wonderful library of children's and adolescent books.  It's an enlightening and delightful collection no matter what age you are.

--Julie Swarstad

Worlds of Words (WOW) is a special collection of the University of Arizona College of Education.  The collection includes children's and adolescent literature from around the world with more than 25,000 books.  WOW is located on the first (basement) level of the UA Education Building and is open to the public Mondays-Thursdays 9 a.m.-4 p.m. and Saturdays 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.  Visit their website at:

Created on: 
Friday, August 27, 2010
Arizona Board of Regents