This page offers support for finding literature, building lessons, and incorporating original languages, among other topics—just use the list on the left to find what you're looking for.
Words Without Borders promotes cultural understanding through the translation, publication, and promotion of the finest contemporary international literature.
Words Without Borders Campus brings that literature to high school and college students, teachers, and professors. Here, you'll find fiction, poetry, and essays from around the world, along with resources for understanding it, ideas for teaching it, and suggestions for further exploration. Most of the literature presented comes from the online magazine, Words Without Borders.
WWB Campus has received an honorable mention for the National Book Foundation’s 2018 Innovations in Reading Prize, an annual award for projects that create and sustain a lifelong love of reading.
“This honor from the National Book Foundation is a tremendous affirmation of the goals of WWB Campus. It is a wonderful way of broadcasting the resources the program offers educators, students, and readers to get to know the world—and themselves—through literature.” —Alane Salierno Mason, founder and president of Words Without Borders
Christine L. Woods teaching Mexican literature from WWB Campus. Virginia Community College System, 2018.
"I recently used the literature and videos on Mexico from WWB Campus—specifically the poem "Sleepless Homeland" and bio info on the author Carmen Boullosa. Often students have preconceived impressions (due to what is presented in US media) of other regions of the world, like Mexico . . . Their journal writing that day reflected a clearer picture of the drug war situation in Mexico as well as a more compassionate understanding of the immigration issues in the news.
Thank you for the great literature selections with the relevant and relatable videos with additional paired resources. WWB Campus is a resource I will return to again and again!" Christine Woods, past president, Virginia Association of Teachers of English, Virginia Western Community College, Roanoke, VA. , Roanoke, VA
"[T]his is wonderful! Just what many of us have been looking for. These resources can be adapted for any middle, high school, even graduate school courses when educators want texts to use as works of literature or as starting points for discussions/explorations of issues related to culture, growing up, inclusion, etc." Anna J. Small Roseboro, NBCT, Early Career Leadership Mentor, Conference on English Education, Conference on English Leadership, Grand Rapids, MI
"Words Without Borders was a great way to show students the wealth and diversity of contemporary world literature." Miciah Hussey, Adjunct Instructor, Baruch College, New York, NY
"The students were very interested in learning about other cultures, and this interest helped them get into the poems. It's always a risk with middle school, trying to get them interested in poetry. But WWB was a nice jumping-off point for them . . . . I will continue to use the site, yes! I love it!" Joshua Medsker, 8th Grade English teacher, M.E.T.S. Charter School, Jersey City, NJ
"I am thrilled to incorporate Words without Borders Campus into my English classes. The WWBC website is filled with vital and brilliant works of literature. These multicultural and multi-genre works are accessible and curated with great care for thematic and cultural content . . . a treasure trove of foreign literature that enlightens, entertains, and broadens our students' as well as our own perspectives." Caron Knauer, Adjunct English lecturer, LaGuardia Community College, New York, NY
"I observed a sense of surprise [among students] as some selections had dispelled their preconceived notions of a particular culture/people/region." Sahar Mustafah, English teacher, Homewood-Flossmoor High School, Flossmor, Illinois
"It provided me, as a teacher, and students with new tools to use in class and also with literature from different parts of the world. I really enjoyed using the materials WWBC made available. Students really enjoyed reading a poem that was 'different' from what they're used to." José Luis Poblete, English and Literature Lecturer, Universidad de Santiago (USACH) and Universidad de Ciencias de la Informática (UCINF), Chile
"I love the way the selections provide extensions in the teaching ideas, and references to Shakespeare. I also found the files on bios, context, and playlist especially helpful in incorporating listening, speaking, reading, and writing aspects of language acquisition for my ELL students." Kelly Shim-Choi, teacher, English as a Second Language, The Wardlaw-Hartridge School, Edison, NJ
"An amazing find... It's such a great, great mission and rich site(s) you have...." Michael Kula, Associate Professor of Writing Studies & Coordinator of the Writing Studies Program, University of Washington, Tacoma.
"I used [the collection of Mexican literature] to teach a Spanish class for deportees and returnees back in Mexico this summer… While some of the students were already avid readers and writers, I would say most of the students had had very little contact with literature in the past, especially with contemporary literature--and had never read anything that they felt they could relate to…. Thank you so much for this wonderful material. It really saved the day!!" María Cristina Fernández Hall, Professor of English, Tec de Monterrey, Mexico
"[A]ll your tie-in teaching aids, such as the audio recording of a native speaker pronouncing difficult lexicon, the correlations with other literary texts and authors (for instance, the poet and bard Aleksandr Galich), the commentary and essay prompts, the suggestions for structuring lessons and opening up discussions—all of this is so well done, so perceptive and imaginative, so well-informed. . . .The commentaries created for the 'Teaching Ideas' tab belong in a first-rate textbook of contemporary Russian literature in translation, and in a way, that’s exactly where they are—only this textbook is web-based." Timothy D. Sergay, translator and associate professor of Russian, Slavic and Eurasian studies, University at Albany, State University of New York
Thank you for producing such vivid and useful materials for educators! As an elementary and middle school teacher -- and literary translator -- I'm grateful for the breadth and thoughtfulness of your Campus materials. Eric Fishman, Upper elementary teacher, Boston, MA
I highly recommend Words Without Borders...Excellent resource for incorporating world literature into your classroom. Sue Kenney, high school English teacher, Immaculate Heart Academy, Washington, NJ
Finding Global Literature
On Words Without Borders Campus, you'll find a rich selection of contemporary international literature, along with resources for teaching and understanding that literature. So far, we have published six country-based units of literature from Mexico, China, Egypt, Japan, Russia, and Iran (and counting), as well as individual pieces of literature from dozens of other places around the world. This literature includes a wide range of genres and themes: from spoken-word poems to persuasive essays; from "Love Stories" to "Mothers" to "Revolution."
To browse our units, click the "Find Literature" button on the top of the home page. This page lets you browse literature by country, by theme, or by genre. Make your selections by clicking the buttons on the right-hand side or entering something in the search box.
If you click a country button next to "Jump to:" you'll see all the literature we have from that country, organized by theme, along with an essay introducing the literature.
Finally, to search through everything on the site, including blog posts with literature from a wide range of countries, visit the Searchpage.
On the Find page, you can filter texts by their reading grade levels: the levels students need to be at in order to access the texts. For example, a tenth grader may be reading at an eighth grade level. Since all the literature featured on this site has multiple levels of meaning, we recommend searching for all the reading levels your students are able to access (e.g., for students at a fifth-grade level, search for grades 1-5.)
For teachers using lexiles, the chart below outlines approximate conversions.
Reading Levels to Lexiles
1 to 2
10L - 200L
2 to 3
210L - 400L
3 to 5
410L - 600L
5 to 7
610L - 800L
7 to 9
810L - 1000L
9 to 11
1010L - 1200L
11 to 12
1210L - 1400L
12 and up
1410L - 1600L
Reading grade-levels don't always correspond to maturity levels: the Japanese comic "Tetsu of the Yamanote Line" is at a second and third grade reading level, but includes scenes of violence and is much better-suited to young adults than to elementary students. (In fact, this story is an excellent "hi-lo" text, likely to engage older students who are reading below grade-level.)
Other texts on this site are both written in simple language and appropriate for children, such as the inspiring Mexican poem "Nothing Remains Empty," by Juan Gregorio Regino. We recommend fully reading any text before using it in the classroom.
We use a number of tools to analyze reading grade-levels, including The Flesch Reading Ease formula, the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level, and the Linsear Write Formula.
What to Teach?
You may be interested in finding a single poem or story—or in teaching a whole series of pieces from a particular country. This site is flexible, and provides tools for teaching pieces of literature individually or in groups. You can:
Make your own theme-based unit by looking at the same theme across different cultures; for example, the theme of Leaving Home appears in all the country collections on the site.
Reading Literature on WWBC
After you click on a piece of literature from the homepage, country landing page, or Find page, it will appear on a new screen.
The story, poem, or essay will be on the left side of the screen. On the right side or beneath the literature, you can use the tabs to see bios, definitions, context (for instance, a video interview with the author, or a photo gallery of the place a poem is describing), teaching ideas, and ways to further explore the culture, author, or themes. There are also links to related reading at the bottom of the page.
Resources for teaching and learning:
About: Definitions of culturally specific words and publication notes
Bios: Information about authors and translators
Original: Text in original language (if available)
Context: Resources to help students understand the literature, including author/translator interviews, images, maps, and music
Playlist: Links to opportunities for further exploration of the culture, author, themes or genre
Teaching Ideas: 2-5 ideas for teaching each work of literature (see below.)
Beneath each work of literature, the "Related Reading" list describes comparable literature from the website.
Using Original Languages
Some pieces are available in their original languages on WWB Campus—for example, Carmen Boullosa's poem "Sleepless Homeland" is available in Spanish via the "Original" tab. (See picture above)
Other works have links to the original language versions in the "Context tab"; for example, Andrei Platonov's play "Grandmother's Little Hut." Those links will be towards the top of the items listed in the tab.
Have students who know the original language read it aloud. The students who listen might then discuss how the poem "sounds" to them, and the emotions the sounds evoke.
For Romance languages such as Spanish, Italian, and French, have students use their knowledge of word roots and sentence structure to make comparisons between the translation and the original. (For instance, are the sentences more complex in the original or the translation?)
Using the Teaching Ideas
You can access Teaching Ideas by clicking on the "Teaching Idea" tab on the right-hand side of the page for a piece of literature. Each idea can be used to construct a lesson plan, and often, you'll find a few different kinds of assignments (analytical as well as creative) within the same idea.
Some of the Teaching Ideas include links to additional materials, such as artwork or audio files. Students can access those materials via links in the Context or Playlist tabs.
The Teaching Ideas are also linked to the U.S. Common Core Anchor Standards for ELA; you'll find a list of relevant standards in italics at the end of each Teaching Idea. For more on international literature and the CCS, read this blog post.
Samplelesson plans are posted for each country's literature. You can find links to the plans in the Teaching Ideas tab for the literary works below, or by directly clicking on the text "lesson plan" in the bullet points.
Many of the Teaching Ideas include ways of engaging students at the beginning of a lesson. Some general ideas are below:
1. Find a compelling idea, term or fact in the introductory essay for the unit, and put it on the board. (For instance, from Chip Rossetti's essay on Egypt: "Nahda": a renaissance.) Invite students to talk about the idea, term, or fact in relation to their own lives. (E.g., for "Nadha," "Have you ever begun to question an old way of thinking?")
2. Play students a piece of music or a video from the Context section, or show them a compelling image. Alternatively, before the lesson begins, you might assign different pieces of context to different students (or small groups), and ask them to prepare to present their pieces of context to the class.
3. Have a student who knows the original language of the piece to expressively read a few lines in that language. Ask the other students to use clues from the reading (emotional intonations, rhythms, etc.) to make some preliminary guesses about the nature of the piece.
The pieces of literature are of varying lengths, taking about ten minutes to forty minutes to read. We designed the website to be usable by teachers and students with different levels of Internet access and classroom practice. You can:
Assign a piece of literature for students to read online, at home, or in your classroom,
Print out a piece of literature and pass out copies to students, or
Project the piece onto a SMART Board, or make transparencies.
Partnering with Other Classrooms
Are you and your students interested in connecting to classrooms in other parts of the world---perhaps reading manga with peers in Japan, sharing stories of migration with peers in Mexico, or discussing human rights with peers in Russia? This blog post includes a detailed list of virtual exchanges.
UN Headquarters during the 63rd session of Commission on the Status of Women on 18 March 2019. By UN Women/Amanda Voisard.
Standards 1-10 are the nationwide Common Core Standards. In New York State, teachers have an additional Standard: #11:
Respond to literature by employing knowledge of literary language, textual features, and forms to read and comprehend, reflect upon, and interpret literary texts from a variety of genres and a wide spectrum of American and world cultures.
All the teaching ideas on this site support national Common Core Standard 10 (Read and comprehend complex literary and informational texts independently and proficiently) as well as NYS Standard 11. Most Teaching Ideas also address three or more of the other reading standards.
We've provided a variety of ideas for writing assignments, including analytical essays and creative responses. Most frequently, you will see that the assignments are supporting CCS Writing Standards 1, 3 and 4. However, if students develop the writing they begin in the suggested activity, then the assignments would support Standard 5 and possibly 6. And, of course, if students are routinely writing in response to site or in-class assignments, then the course is supporting Standard 10.