The first assignment in my YA literature course is for students to do a reading autobiography. It is not an assignment original to me. My professor had his students write one. And HIS professor had students write them as well. As a matter of fact, the content of hundreds if not thousands of those reading autobiographies became part of the basis for the book VOICES OF READERS by Anne Sherrill and G. Robert Carlsen. I keep up this tradition because I want to know my students as readers (or non-readers, though that is thankfully rare). Especially in an online setting, I want to know more about my students than their Twitter names and email addresses. And I want my students to reflect on their own reading lives and know more about their reading identity.
I read the submissions last week. Some opted for a traditional personal essay. Others conveyed their reading lives through timelines (we love www.whenintime.com for this; here is the link to one I provide as a starting point for them; it is not complete: http://whenintime.com/tl/teri16850/reading_with_critical_eye_assignment_1/). Some used Prezi and Power Point. Some of their pieces moved me to tears; some made me laugh; others made me nod in recognition. And a few made me wince as I read about how some of my students overcame incredibly uncaring educators and decided still to be teachers and librarians. In almost every single piece, though, I saw connections to my own reading life: series books, hated of some classics, caring parents who somehow managed to buy books despite economic hardships, becoming lost in books and reading, needing more time to read.
One more thing: everyone received full credit for the assignment. Everyone is beginning MY semester with an A. I hope it is a wake-up call of another kind. I hope it awakens the reader and writer in them. I hope it awakens a feeling of success, a feeling of "Yes, I CAN!"