Your Family Anthology

anthologyWhen editors put together a literary anthology, they choose pieces that tell a certain story. Whether it's a poetry anthology about city life, an anthology of folktales from the American West, or an anthology of short stories by African American writers, the pieces selected work together like the parts of story to illustrate a certain period, genre, or theme. Types of anthologies abound, for examples look at this list of children's poetry anthologies from the Thinkfinity partner website ReadWriteThink.

What poems, stories, tales, and traditions are a part of your family story? Use the ReadWriteThink worksheet as a research guide and create your own anthology to illustrate your family's literary life.


First, interview members of your family to find out what works of literature have been most meaningful in their lives. The most difficult part about interviewing is just getting started. If you would like some guidelines for how to conduct an interview, National Geographic and ReadWriteThink have a number of suggested interviewing strategies appropriate for every grade level: K-2, 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12.

  • Ask about poems, songs, hymns, stories, and novels that made a lasting impression on the members of your family. What was that impression? When and how did it occur?
  • Ask about anecdotes that have become part of your family history. What stories are always retold at family gatherings? What stories do your parents use to drive home a point?
  • Ask about rhymes, riddles, and tales that the members of your family recall from childhood. What stories were read aloud when you were growing up? What stories do your parents remember?
  • Ask about jokes and sayings that have been passed down in your family. How did they get started? When are they recalled today?

A ReadWriteThink lesson plan on exploring and sharing family stories may be of interest for this project. Closely linked to the art of storytelling is the art of memoir, participants may benefit from this ReadWriteThink workshop in memoir writing.

Next, if possible, take the members of your family on a visit to Poetry Magazine's Poetry Foundation website. Use the site's Search function to find poets with whom they are familiar and poets that they recall. Ask how they learned about these poets and poems. Talk about where and how poetry plays a part in your family story.

Finally, gather the literary pieces that will make up your family anthology and write a short introduction for each one explaining its significance in your family's life. You might also gather photos, pictures, and other family artwork to illustrate or accompany your literary texts. Decide how you will organize your anthology to tell your family story most effectively—chronologically? By family member? Thematically? By literary genre? Decide also how you will publish your anthology—in a scrapbook or audiobook, or perhaps in a website. When you have completed your anthology, ask every member of your family to read through it and to write a short "blurb" expressing what this family portrait says to them.

For further reading about family memories and memoirs, take a look at this suggested reading list on the ReadWriteThink website.