July 25, 2002
After reading a book about a girl growing up in West Virginia, students in teacher Doris Bowser's fourth-grade class at London Towne Elementary created their own autobiographies.
Parents provided the children with details they were too young to remember about their lives, and the children turned them into their own books. Then, the very last week of school, they held an Authors' Tea, reading each book to their parents and classmates.
Calling her book, "When I Was Young in Fairfax," — similar to the one they'd read in class, "When I Was Young in the Mountains — Vanessa Ferman, 9, dedicated her 15-page book to her mom and dad, writing, "Thanks for helping me when I needed help." She also drew a picture of them, with a tree and a sunshine.
On her about-the-author page, Vanessa pasted her photo and told the readers, "I like cats and dogs. I like swimming and going to the movies." Christina Bonilla, 9, told about going to her mother's country, El Salvador, to be baptized, and she dedicated her book to "the best mom anyone could have."
"When I Was Young in Centreville," was the title of Tyler Mondres' book. Tyler, 9 3/4, wrote that he was born "on a hot Saturday morning, Aug. 29, 1992, in Fairfax, Va., U.S.A. at [Inova] Fairfax Hospital."
He noted that he saw the World Trade Center "just before it fell down. I got there just in time." He also drew his favorite sports team, the Pittsburgh Steelers, playing football. Tyler said making the book was important because "it's the history of me."
His mom, Rebecca Mondres of Virginia Run, said she and his dad both helped. "It was fun remembering all the stories, and it's a neat keepsake for Tyler," she said. "I think it's wonderful because it focuses on the kids, gives them memories of themselves and teaches them to write, edit and illustrate. They also learn how to get up in front of parents and read it, so it's pretty special for them."
Christopher Jones, 10 1/2, dedicated his book "to Hollywood to make my life story a hit movie." He wrote that he walked at 9 months and drew himself at that age, with his parents, and his dad saying, "He's walking!"
Mom Kelly Perry of London Towne said, normally, Chris is busy playing video games, so she enjoyed working on the book with him: "It brought Chris and I closer, and he learned a lot about himself."
"When I Was Young in South Korea" was Ho Joung You's book. She wrote that, at age 2, she liked singing and dancing, and she drew a picture of herself and some friends dancing. Now 10, she came to the U.S. at age 9. She wrote: "I want to thank the best teacher, Mrs. Bowser. She came up with this idea [for a book], and I had so much fun doing this."
Born in Washington, D.C., Thomas Harmon, 9, wrote about touring the west wing of the White House. Said Thomas: "I liked this project because we got to write about our life and I like writing in books."
Mario Corado, 10, wrote that, as a kindergartner, his teacher gave him her pet crabs to keep and "they lasted for two years." Jessica Penaloza, 10, dedicated her book to her whole family — even her dog Tito — and drew a picture of everyone. Proud of her book, she said the best part was "that it was about me."
Kirandeep Kaur drew a map of her birthplace, India, showing the Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean and Bay of Bengal. She wrote that, when she came to London Towne at age 6, "I was so shy and scared. Then I started to know my class better and I was not feeling scared. As I'm growing up, I can pull out this book and remember all my memories."
Rae William Estero, 11, told of being born in the Philippines, in Quezon. He even drew a picture of the hospital, an ambulance and a clock showing the time he was born. Charles Climo, 10, of Austin, Texas, drew a map of that state and described his brother cutting off all his hair when he was 2. Said Charles: "That was my first haircut."
Moderating the author's tea was Kaylin Newman, 10, who enjoyed writing about the scholarship she received for travel soccer. Erika Menjivar, 10, described making a mess with her mom's lipstick: "When I turned 4, I put lipstick on all the walls — then we moved."
Ten-year-old Steven Reed described his Halloween-costume birthday party when he turned 8 and the cool, "Star Wars" costume he wore. Also 10, Devin Hill drew a picture of her classroom and teacher and listed everything she's learned in fourth grade. "Schoolwork is hard, but I try to achieve," she wrote. "My mom said, 'Don't say 'can't,' because you can accomplish almost anything.' I received an honor-roll award; my mom and dad were very proud."
Krystina Douglass, 10, wrote about becoming baptized and a member of Heritage Fellowship Church, and Ahasanul Hoque, 10, drew a rollercoaster and said Kings Dominion was the first amusement park he visited.
Amy Park drew a map of her native country, South Korea, and dedicated her book to "my family for loving me." She wrote that, at 7, she moved from Korea to Chicago: "It was my first time in America. Everything felt very new." She also drew a picture of herself smiling from an airplane window.
Ayesha Moss, 9, was born in El Salvador, but lived in places including India and Jordan since her dad was in the embassy. She saw the Taj Mahal at age 4 and enjoyed "elephant rides at a friend's birthday party."
Victoria Miles, 10, got her first tooth at 2 months and drew a picture of herself with a big, open smile showing that tooth. And Madeline Rivera, also 10, wrote about her teacher. "It's almost the end of the school year, [and] I am going to miss Mrs. Bowser," she wrote. "I thank her for all she's done for my friends and for me." Madeline also thanked her parents for "growing me up."