Your Life in Books

Photo by syntika/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by syntika/iStock / Getty Images

When you remember favorite books from your childhood, it's like revisiting an old, beloved friend. If you think about it, we have stories about the stories we've read!  When I was in high school, I read Gone with the Wind.  In three days.  That book is the size of a brick!  No small feat.  Plus, I read it in the car on a road trip from California to the Canadian Rockies.  My dad was so ticked at me, "Lorrie, we've driven all this way and you're not even looking out the window!"  


"But, Dad!  You just don't understand!  I can't bear to tear myself away from Rhett and Scarlett!"

You see, I've got a story about reading a story that reminds me of a specific time and place.  While I was writing this post, I found the copy of Gone With the Wind that made the journey from the California to the Canadian Rockies.  I opened the front cover and saw this:


My guess is that my brother crossed the imaginary line in the middle of our Volvo station wagon back seat so he could annoy me in some way.  You see, he got carsick very easily and couldn't while away hours and hours with reading diversion during a time of no electronics.  After a while, his only option must have been annoying me, and I had to retaliate by calling him a DOPE in a stealth way that avoided my parents' detection.   See, yet another story about reading a story.

I love it, and I love hearing other people's stories about reading stories.  I feel deeply connected to people who love similar books.  And even if we don't love the same books, I love hearing stories about your reading lives.  

And that's why I think it's important to share personal reading histories in our classrooms with one of my favorite writing recipes (disguised as a reading/art project) called LITERARY TIMELINES.  Talking about books brings life and passion into the classroom.  And that sets the stage for loving reading which sets the stage for loving writing (it's kinda like the pattern in If You Give a Mouse a Cookie).

The recipe starts with making a list of books from different times in your life.

Here's a brief list of books that are embedded in my reading memories.  Right away, you'll notice that I'm a woman of a certain age!  

Toddler/Preschool:  The Golden Egg Book, Goodnight Moon, Are You My Mother?, Mike Mulligan and the Steam Shovel, Green Eggs and Ham, The Little Engine that Could

First Grade:  First Grade Reader from School

Second Grade: A Cricket in Times Square, Stewart Little

Third Grade:  A Child's Garden of Verses, Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, Pippi Longstocking, Island of the Blue Dolphins, The Secret Garden

Fourth Grade:  Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, ALL Little House on the Prairie Books

Fifth Grade: ALL Nancy Drew Books, A Wrinkle in Time, The Witch of Blackbird Pond

Middle School:  Watership Down, The Outsiders

High School:  Gone with the Wind, The Andromedia Strain, Main Street, Old Man and the Sea, The Grapes of Wrath

College:  My Antonia,  Their Eyes Were Watching God

What are some of the books from your childhood?  Do we share any of the same favorites?  What are the personal stories that these cherished books bring to mind?

If you'd like to do this recipe with your students, here's the lesson plan, but first, make your own list during the dog days of summer when a lot of us have a wee bit more time to read.  It will feel like visiting an old friend.  And you'll have a sample for your students in the fall.

I'll leave you with a stunning sample timeline from a high school student - I wish I knew her name to give credit!  She's an adult now, and I can only wonder if her timeline now includes reading picture books to her very own children, snuggled under covers in soft night light..."one fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish..."

Pencil Lit Timeline.jpg

And if you'd like further reading, check out My Ideal Bookshelf by Jane Mount.  It's also got a bookshelf template in the back that might help students make their own timelines.

image of my idea bookshelf 2.jpg

Happy remembering.

Always writing (and reading!),


P.S. I don't know who came up with this idea, but it wasn't me! I first learned about it while attending a workshop sponsored by the South Coast Writing Project at UCSB which is associated with the National Writing Project.  I believe Marolyn Stewart gave me the timeline example from one of her high school students.  Enjoy!