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Play Me a Memory

screen-shot-2016-10-17-at-2-00-44-pmSon, can you play me a memory?
I’m not really sure how it goes
But it’s sad and it’s sweet and I knew it complete
When I wore a younger man’s clothes  Billy Joel, Piano Man

Every man’s memory is his private literature.  Aldous Huxley

Our memories are important. They form the tapestry of our personal histories. They are containers for our joys and our shame. They inspire our learning. They allow us to review and replay our behavior and experiences, our successes and failures. They inform our future actions. They become the stories we tell. And when they are shared, they become our legacy.

Authors Julie Sternberg and Marcie Colleen, get memory and recently officially launched the very memorable, Play Me a Memory to create a dialogue about storytelling and navigating complex social situations with friends and family. 

Aimed at teachers, librarians and parents who work with (or love) middle school kiddos, Play Me a Memory presents mini-podcasts addressing universal issues often explored in children’s literature.

The shared memories come packed with a writing prompts, discussion questions, and transcripts–prepared by Marcie and downloadable as PDF documents.  The site is filled with the charming illustrations of Matthew Cordell who also illustrates Julie’s from Pickle Juice books.

These stories, usually under five minutes, are organized around the following themes:

I spoke with Julie about the vision for the portal and how she went about collecting memories and building the site:

I started recording longer podcast, not specifically for kids.

I wanted to talk to other authors and storytellers about the universal experiences cropping up in their writing and the memories they had that sparked their stories.  I was on a panel or two with Michael Buckley, so I reached out to him. Sara Weeks was a teacher of mine. I found the authors I spoke with were super supportive, eager to share and generous with their time and personal tales.

In some cases I was interested in a particular subject like mean kids.  So, I approach a friend who had been bullied and asked her to share her compelling and relevant story.

I did the interviews. I knew Marcie had prepared curriculum guides for books and I asked her what she thought of preparing questions and prompts for our memories.

Why middle school?  Julie shared,

Middle school is a time when you confront issues you are less likely to be able to confront on your own. Middle school students don’t go to grownups for fear of being seen as a tattletale or a rat.  They may feel isolated as they navigate. They are so interested in being older, but they aren’t older yet. It’s a good time to flag them and talk with them about the stuff that difficult to talk about. If we don’t air these feeling, they take on disproportionate weight.

I’ll tell you a story. A long time ago, I cheated on a test with a friend and never told a soul. I felt such shame and carried it for decades. First I told my husband, then I called my girlfriend. I asked, “Do you know what I am calling about?”  She said, “No.” But the act changed me. I just shut off.  I became a loner, very solitary. She continued to be super popular.  She realized she made a mistake, talked to others about it and moved on.  I felt such deep shame, felt embarrassment, wasn’t able to process it with close friends. So, when I decided that I was going to talk a with authors, it only seemed fair that I shared my memory too. 

Among the storytellers sharing personal memories:

  • Michael Buckley, multiple New York Times bestselling author of several acclaimed middle grade and young adult series;
  • Sarah Weeks, bestselling and award-winning author of more than fifty books for kids;
  • Matthew Cordell, bestselling and award-winning author and/or illustrator of more than twenty children’s books
  • Doreen Rappaport, multiple award-winning author of forty-eight fiction and nonfiction books for kids
  • Kat Yeh, award-winning author of many celebrated children’s books.

In classrooms and libraries, these stories will resonate. Children will see themselves in these situations that can be difficult to address but impossible to avoid.

I know that the memories shared in Play Me a Memory will prompt powerful conversations and inspire more meaningful and more personal writing and storytelling.

You can share your own memory or get in touch with Julie here.

And check out Marcie’s CCSS aligned Teacher’s Guides


Joyce Valenza About Joyce Valenza

Joyce is an Assistant Professor of Teaching at Rutgers University School of Information and Communication, a technology writer, speaker, blogger and learner. Follow her on Twitter: @joycevalenza

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