The Grannie Annie – Historical Family Stories Written by Young People
Online: Interviewing Tips, Writing Resources, Illustration Guide, 420 Published Stories, Index of Published Stories
by Michael Leppert
Many classroom teachers have realized that a great way to learn about world history is to use a student’s own family’s history as the center of their studies. Once they know a bit about a relative’s life, they can add to his/her experiences with general information, thus providing a context for the relative’s experience.
The Grannie Annie Family Story Celebration, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit founded in 2005, provides resources that encourage young people in U.S. grades 4 through 8, and homeschooled or international students 9 through 14 years old, to discover stories from their family’s history. Here’s how it works: The student first interviews an older relative who has a story to tell. The story could be humorous, tragic, adventurous, inspirational. It could be about a historic event, an event of great personal significance, or an everyday occurrence. The student then writes and polishes a story (275–500 words) following The Grannie Annie Guidelines, shares the story with extended family and community, and may share the story with The Grannie Annie, where it will be read and appreciated by a number of people and considered for publication. The story can be illustrated as well, by the author or another young person, according to the guidelines for illustration. This is a great opportunity for teamwork — writer and artist. There is no fee for students to participate in The Grannie Annie or for families to use any of the resources on The Grannie Annie’s website.
To date, The Grannie Annie has published 420 stories, which took place in 64 countries on 6 continents over a span of nearly 400 years. All of the stories are enlightening, providing readers with an intimate glimpse into the lives of these ancestors of the authors. The Grannie Annie stories, which are indexed and easily accessible online, provide a valuable resource for enriching curriculum with personal family stories.
In honor of its tenth anniversary, The Grannie Annie published its first themed volume: Echoes from World War II: Young Writers Sharing Family Stories. Having previously been published in annual volumes, the stories in Echoes are based on personal accounts of experiences on battlefields, in prison camps, and in homes in twenty countries around the world. Individually, the stories are compelling; collectively, they tell the story of the war itself, beginning with Hitler’s rise to power and ending with the sentiments of a Japanese-American twenty-five years after the war’s end. These stories, which personalize the war, are easily accessible online through The Grannie Annie Index of Stories.
I urge you to visit The Grannie Annie’s website and to read the published stories with your children. I urge you to then encourage your children to follow the Guidelines to write and share their own family’s stories. By discovering the living history that their elders carry inside them, young people will strengthen their family bonds and their sense of their own identity. And by writing the story, they will have captured an event from their family’s history in a concrete form that can be preserved for future generations — and possibly shared with the world through publication by The Grannie Annie. MjL