My Literary History

I read about the literary history assignment somewhere (Nancie Atwell, maybe, or Cris Tovani?) and assigned it to my middle school students a couple of years ago, but not before I wrote my own. I think it’s a great introductory assignment for a reading classroom.

I’ve loved to read for as long as I can remember. When I was little, my parents built up a collection of Little Golden Books and the Bernstein Bears, books they must have read over and over again to my brother and me, books that they have saved to give to our children.

When my brother and I were a bit older, my mom took us to the library every week or two, and we got to check out as many books as we were old, so when I was 8, I could check out 8 books. I remember reading Nancy Drew and The Baby-Sitters Club (I always identified with Kristy, the founder of the club, though I wished I was more like Dawn) and Sweet Valley Twins. (When the Sweet Valley Twins became Sweet Valley High, I remember feeling a great sense of sorrow.) I read every moment I could when I was a kid, including while I dried my hair in the morning before school when I was in middle school.

When I was 13, before we moved out of the house I grew up in, I donated my 300+ books to a local children’s hospital. I kept a few books that were important to me, including a book I did a book report on in second grade called Hot Chocolate Friendship (I passed out packets of hot chocolate at the end of my presentation) and The Impossible Lisa Barnes, a book about a girl who lives in Africa with her missionary parents.

After we moved, I continued going to the library in Livingston, California, where I lived for nine months with my grandparents, and Fiji, where I lived for three years. The library in Fiji didn’t have a great selection, but I read what I could (in particular, I remember a book called Certain Women, a book about a family that looks a little bit like the family of King David) and supplemented my reading with classics I borrowed from my parents’ friends. Next was the Reynolda Manor Branch Library in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and then the Lakeland Public Library in Lakeland, Florida. It was in Florida when I went to the midnight release party of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, a book I read slowly, savored, really, as I didn’t want to ever get to the end. The next library, in Fort Worth, Texas, was right down the street from my apartment. (It doesn’t get any better than that.) There was always a big stack of library books, a stack which always included several adolescent novels, on the small table next to my couch, making it easy to find just the right book and settle in.

Here in Bangkok, I’m still reading, even though there are no real public libraries. I still have plenty of books: I brought books with me, check out books from the libraries at BCIS, check out e-books from the Fort Worth library, buy books at the Neilson-Hayes Library’s semi-annual book sale and buy the occasional Kindle book on Amazon.

At the moment, I’m reading a book about happiness, a book about Buddhism and its similarities to Christianity, a book of short stories, a book about emotionally healthy spirituality, a memoir of an Irish childhood, and a book written by a missionary to Liberia, as well as a few others. I also read New York Times articles and articles on www.time.com when I have free time and every edition of BK Magazine. I read to experience the lives of others and to learn, develop, grow.

I went on a short vacation to the beach this summer and did the only thing I really wanted to do: I read. I read on the beach, I read at coffee shops, I read in my hotel room, I read while waiting for meals. In everyday life, there just is never enough time to read.

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