SLIS 325 – Children’s Literature Autobiography

I am excited to be teaching Children’s Literature again at USC, starting this week. I’ve taught it for years, but took a break to have the baby. Now that she’s almost two, I’m ready to get back to it! She may even make an appearance in class…my first assignment for my USC students is always to write a “Children’s Literature Autobiography.” I want students to write about their experiences with reading – good, bad, whatever. I have never written one about myself, however. So, here is my Children’s Literature Autobiography. Mostly written as a model for my students, but also because I love thinking about how I became a reader. Your reading life is important and interesting. Here’s a little bit about mine –

I remember reading as a child in little flashbacks…it was never really a THING or EVENT or something I was pushed to do, it was just something that I did. I remember my grandfather reading Italian Folktales to me before bed when he would visit and I remember how sometimes, he’d fall asleep reading to me and I would still be awake waiting for what would happen next! I remember my dad taking me to the public library each week to get stacks of whatever books I wanted. I remember visiting bookstores with my mom and buying Babysitter’s Club books. I remember reading The Littles in 4th grade with Mrs. Lee and LOVING THAT BOOK SO MUCH. I don’t remember too much about my reading life in middle school or high school, which makes me think I didn’t have much of one. Except for 11th grade, when Mr. Raven introduced me to The Catcher in the Rye and To Kill a Mockingbird. That kickstarted my reading back into high gear and I sort of never looked back from there. In college, I bounced around from major to major, but was always taking English Lit classes – Postmodernism (LOVED), Victorian Writers (UGH), and a whole class dedicated to F. Scott Fitzgerald, which was amazing. But, nothing hooked me like the Children’s Literature class I took with Dr. Dianne Johnson. This class was held near my house in Irmo, for some reason, which was one of the reasons why I signed up for it, I remember. My MOM would drop me off and pick me up for this class (not sure why…college?!?! If you knew my mom though, this is not a surprise). From the first day of that class, I was IN LOVE with the literature. I had not read a picture book in a long time. I was working at a bookstore at this time, so I’d flip through the picture books or other books in the kid’s section and think they were cute, but I never gave much thought to them. But, after taking that class, I was obsessed. I think a large part of it was Dr. Johnson’s voice, to be honest with you. I could sit there and listen to her read books all day long. But, she really showed us that this literature is important. After her class, I knew my career focus was going to be something with children’s books. From there, I ended up in Library School and to what I do now. I read children’s books because I love them and I think they are important. I also read books geared towards young adults and kids in middle school. I read poetry and books for adults. I read LOTS of board books and books about the potty, at the moment (to my toddler). I share the books I read via social media. I’m on Goodreads and share pictures of the books I read on FB and Instagram. I am constantly recommending books to friends and family and seeking recommendations from others. I am passionate about reading and want others to share my passion.

As for what I want to see in SLIS 325 this semester – I want my students to be engaged. I want them to leave my class in April with a better understanding of Children’s Literature and with a love for books. I know life gets busy, but you make time for what is important. Make reading important. As future classroom teachers, you MUST be a good reading role model. If you do not like to read – start liking it. I hope this class helps you do that. Even if your love is not Children’s Literature, my hope is that you will find the books you will love to read so that you can share that love with your students. Classroom teachers are some of the most important folks in a child’s life and they will look up to you. If you enjoy reading, chances are…they will too.




About Valerie Byrd Fort

I live in South Carolina. I am passionate about libraries, books, and reading. I am also a mom. This is my blog about those things.
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