Biography and Authentic Literacy

I’ve been struck in recent weeks by student responsiveness to three heartwarming projects, Book Tasting, Retelling, and the Book Minute.  In Book Tasting, students have three minutes to examine a number of books, evaluating each according to their own entirely personal and subjective assessment of “what matters.”  In Retelling, students take it a step further by personally narrating the summary elements of a story (character, setting, problem, solution, etc) to their peers and in their own words. In the Book Minute, students choose a favorite book and try to “sell it” to their classmates in a one-minute presentation. In all cases, I’ve been struck by how students engage with the material in their own unique ways–interpreting, evaluating, emphasizing, ignoring or celebrating aspects of their reading in ways completely informed by their unique personalities.


In being privileged to sit with students as they negotiate various reading materials–involving both content that they “love” and self-selected as well as assigned reading–I’ve realized (again) how important literacy is to the formation of identity and biography.  I’ve often heard the statement “you are what you eat,” but I see how it becomes even more true that “you are what you read.” What I found particularly revealing were the presentations students made about their reading during the Retelling (here and here and here) and Book Minute sessions. In each case, the unique personalities of each little soul came shining through!

As a librarian, I live to connect people with the content that they seek. In whatever format, print, digital, audio, or video–my role is to help make the connections. In doing so, I have the privilege of helping to shape students’ personal reading biographies. I have come to realize (again) how it is my personal mission to help young people become who they are, in the most supportive and caring ways possible. Participating in authentic literacy activities is one of the most enjoyable aspects of my job.