My Textual Lineage

Michelle's Journey

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Early Childhood

Growing up as a middle-class, white girl, I enjoyed a "cocoon" of literacy support, starting with caring parents within a supportive community. I remember my parents reading aloud to my sister and me often at bedtime, and I have many happy memories of storytime at the Iowa City Public Library.

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The Wishing Well was the first book that I could read independently, probably around first grade. The story itself doesn’t stand out in my mind as much as the fact that it had a hard cover and short “chapters,” which made it seem very grown up to me. I read it to myself over and over, and the fact that I could read it independently made me feel like “a good reader.”

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The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein, was my sister’s favorite book. Before she could read, I read it to her over and over again. I thought this was just what big sisters were supposed to do. I liked the book, but it was more important to me that she LOVED it.

Elementary Years

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My sister and I watched the show "Little House on the Prairie" when we stayed overnight at our grandparents' house. When my grandma bought the book set for me in third grade, I read all of Laura Ingalls Wilder's books in the next year or two. I loved everything about Little House, but especially the fact that it was based on a true story!
ET The Extra Terrestrial (1982) Official 20th Anniversary Trailer Movie HD
E.T. was the classic movie that all the kids my age were into. I'll always remember the scene where Elliott's bike started to fly! It was a very emotional, tear-jerker of a movie, especially when E.T. had to leave earth and when he wanted to "phone home." Even more than the story itself, I liked it because it was such a popular movie at the time.
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I was a huge fan of Annie! The neighbor girls and I would have contests singing or lipsynching her songs. Since I had curly hair and freckles, I was often placed in the role of Annie. Before I went to the movie, I read the book of Annie (the movie's version). At the movie, I remember being scared when she climbed up the railroad tracks, but I felt secure knowing the ending.

With this same group of neighbor girls, I got some writing practice. We wrote grocery lists when we played "store," we drew pictures and wrote notes under our basement stairway, and we even made maps and notes listing rooms in a bunch of bushes that we called "Iowa Woods."

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If I had to choose one author who influenced my life the most, there's no question; it would definitely be Judy Blume! Our third grade teacher read Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing aloud to our class, and then I must have reread that book about ten times, because I thought it was hilarious! This led me to read Superfudge, and from about fifth grade through eighth or ninth grade, I read almost every Judy Blume book: Deenie, Otherwise Known as Shiela the Great, Blubber, Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret, Then Again, Maybe I Won't, and Forever. I absolutely loved Blume's books! Last summer, when I heard that she had written a new book for adults, In the Unlikely Event, I even read that, only because she was the author. I must admit, though, I liked her teen books more than this one.
Michael Jackson - Thriller (Short Version)
Like everyone else my age, I was into Michael Jackson's songs during his heyday. I don't remember a connection to any certain song, but more of a connection to friends through this album. The girls in my neighborhood would plug in our black boombox and choreograph his songs. We even had the sparkly gloves!
Grease (1978) Trailer
In the summers, our family always went on vacation to see my dad's side of the family, who lived in New York City. My Uncle Chris was an early "techie" who bought a VCR as soon as they were sold, but apparently he bought only three movies to use with it- Mary Poppins, The Sound of Music, and Grease. My sister and I loved watching these each summer. I think I still know the words to every song in Grease! I associate these movies with summer, vacations, and our Uncle Chris.
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We got an Atari in late elementary school. I spent hours playing Pac Man, Frogger, and a game about ships (whose name I can't remember) with my parents, my sister, and neighbor friends.

Junior High

In jr. high, I got into teen magazines, as most teenage girls do. I had a HUGE crush on Kirk Cameron at the time, so I cut out all of his pictures and decorated my bedroom with them. One of these magazines had a drawing contest, and I drew a turtle and sent it to an art school. I remember being so excited when they called and told me I'd done well!

At about fifteen, I graduated to "Seventeen." In college, I graduated to "Glamour." These magazines gave me all of my hair and makeup tips (although they had more tips for girls who had straight, not curly, hair!), along with tips about dating and insight into a "guy's mind," which seemed like foreign territory. They were fun and breezy to read. Because, hey, who doesn't need a little bit of "Glamour" in her life?

High School

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In high school, I enjoyed reading City High's newspaper, The Little Hawk. During junior year, I wrote for The Little Hawk, which increased my feeling of being a writer, because I knew that other students read my published pieces. Even though I was assigned mostly "fluffy" pieces, like a survey of which bubblegum flavor kids liked best, I also got to write a "heavier" piece in which I interviewed the new superintendent starting in Iowa City.
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A few texts I remember reading in English class during high school:

Romeo and Juliet

The Scarlet Letter

To Kill A Mockingbird


A few I remember reading on my own during high school:

Number the Stars, by Lois Lowry

The Diary of Anne Frank

French magazines!

I felt like I was good in French, and our French teacher told us that the best way to read it was in context, in a magazine or newspaper. At the time, there was a store downtown that sold French magazines, so my parents bought me a few for Christmas one year! I couldn't understand ALL of it, but I was so excited that I could understand ENOUGH of it to make sense! Oh la la!

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After eighth grade, my best friend, Amy, moved away to Georgia. Since we weren't old enough to keep in touch with frequent phone calls (there was a long-distance charge back then!), we began writing letters to each other. This continued until after college, when we both started jobs. I wish I had saved more of Amy's letters. It kept us in touch enough that I was in her wedding. Unfortunately, with the advent of Facebook, we began being to rely on that instead of handwritten letters, and it has changed the way we correspond.


At various times in life, starting after high school, I've also saved letters from special people or at special occasions: high school and college graduations, and letters from friends, relatives, and boyfriends.

College

In college, most of the books I read were textbooks. However, one story that had an impact on me was the book Deaf Like Me, which I read for a speech pathology class. Because I had a slight hearing loss, it made a connection with me.
When I wasn't studying in college, you could often find me in the dorm's lobby, watching "Cheers" or "Saturday Night Live." Even though I had a TV in my dorm room, going to the lobby for these shows, which always attracted a crowd, was a fun way to meet other dorm residents. I don't like the newer "SNL" shows, but in the early 1990's, they were hilarious!

Adult Life

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I've enjoyed reading the newspaper to learn information. From the Little Hawk, to the UNI campus newspaper, and currently to the Press Citizen, I've always enjoyed keeping up with the news (and comics and "Dear Abby") in the newspaper.
I Hope You Dance - Lee Ann Womack
In 1990, when I was 27, one of my closest childhood friends, Sheri, passed away. A few weeks later, I heard Lee Ann Womack's song "I Hope You Dance" for the first time. Although Sheri probably never heard this song, I have always connected it with her memory, because it seemed like a friend giving advice, telling another friend to keep enjoying life. The first time I heard it, a few weeks after her funeral, I was driving, and I had to pull the car over to the side of the road, because I started crying.
In my adult life, I've enjoyed reading autobiographies with a few fiction books sprinkled in. Having Our Say, by the Delaney sisters, gave me insight into a different time and culture, by telling what it was like to be black in the days of Jim Crow laws. Even though we all know the basic stories of what happened to some of these famous people, it has been inspirational for me to learn the "back story" of what has helped them survive. I also like knowing that these are true stories of people's actual experiences, instead of stories that a fiction writer has pieced together to showcase a certain theme. By reading biographies and autobiographies, I think we each learn a little bit more about our own life from inspirational people's lives.

Career Reading

As a teacher, I've fallen in love with Dr. Seuss' books and Barbara Park's Junie B. Jones series! My first year as a classroom teacher, I started teaching a Dr. Seuss unit, and for five years, I added more to it. It ended up to be about a month long, including math, social studies, reading/writing, art, ...and even some eating of green eggs and ham on Dr. Seuss' birthday. My mom bought me some little Dr. Seuss characters to decorate my classroom, and I found a Cat in the Hat costume, which has been useful for Halloween parades, school carnivals, and Dr. Seuss birthday celebrations ever since. As the Cat in the Hat says, "It's fun to have fun, but you have to know how!"

My first grade class introduced me to Junie B. Jones. She is my favorite children's book character, because she's funny and she definitely has VOICE in her books! "Wowie wow wow!"

The Polar Express became a favorite when the gym teacher asked if she could read it to my class at Christmastime. Her own sons were teenagers by then, but she had such fond memories of reading it to them. After that, I have always appreciated the powerful emotions this story creates, and I will forever associate it with Valerie.

Authorship

When my niece and nephew were younger, I wrote books for them. The simplest ones were alphabet books and counting books, but the one that I'm most proud of was the rhyme telling my nephew that I'm glad he's him, instead of an ocean creature, because he had a huge interest in oceans and sharks! Maybe reading all of those Dr. Seuss books over the years rubbed off a little bit of rhyme and rhythm on me!
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One of my dreams has always been to be a children's author. In teaching Reading Recovery, we used a lot of Joy Cowley's books. The repetitious patterns of these books kept going through my head, and I began writing my own stories for beginning readers in this style. In 2013, a small company published two of my books, one using photos of my family. It was the COOLEST feeling in the world to see my own name on the covers! Although I'll never be rich or famous from it, I hope to publish more stories in the future.

Present Day: Graduate School

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In college, word processing became an important part of writing papers. I also learned how to email during college. Now I am on Facebook to keep in touch with people.

In grad school, I've had to learn to use some more computer programs. I've practiced making a couple of slideshows, Scoopit, and this Smore. Ever since I've been a young child, I've felt like I was "a good reader and writer," partly because I had the mechanics down. However, as computer literacy becomes more important, I feel like I am slightly behind, and I need to "catch up" in order to use the new literacies. Perhaps I'll feel proficient in computer literacies, too, someday, but I can't quite say that I'm there yet.