We Love Memoirs Day

August 31st has been named We Love Memoirs Day or National Memoirs Day, depending on the source. Memoirs are a brave and vulnerable way for authors to share their lives and experiences with readers.  This day celebrates both the authors who write memoirs and the readers impacted by their stories. Memoirs, biographies, and autobiographies are an effective way to teach your young readers about important historical moments and figures and to help them build empathy through reading.  

Why are memoirs important?  

The Dalai Lama once said, “Looking at various means of developing compassion, I think empathy is an important factor: the ability to appreciate others suffering.”  

Memoirs and biographies give us the chance to see the world through another person's point of view. It gives us the unique ability to understand not only the situations that they experienced, but also gives us a glimpse of how they felt along the way. This helps us understand why the author was feeling a certain way and why they made the decisions they made. Giving this first-hand account as context can help our readers to step into another person's shoes and to connect with a situation that they may not have any experience within real life.  

Memoirs that deal with tough topics and real-life issues can set the stage for hard conversations in the safety of the classroom. By introducing these books and analyzing them through classroom discussion, your readers can learn about some of the crueler parts of the world in a safe and productive space.  

How can memoirs be used in the classroom? 

Memoirs, biographies, and autobiographies are often used in the classroom to teach and discuss historic events. To examine the impact of first-hand accounts, we must first tackle a bigger question – why do we study history? 

 According to the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of History, “Studying history helps us understand and grapple with complex questions and dilemmas by examining how the past has shaped (and continues to shape) global, national, and local relationships between societies and people.Throughout time, first-hand accounts in the form of diaries, letters, and memoirs, have helped us piece together the past to understand the various impacts of historical events more completely 

Reading memoirs can also lead to writing memoirs, which is a powerful tool for teaching the basics of writing for young readers. Excellent writing skills will bring your students success both in, but especially out of, the classroom. Have your students write about their memories and their experiences and you will not only learn how they see the world, but you will be helping them master writing skills that will last a lifetime.  

What are some of the most popular memoirs taught in a classroom? 

Memoirs are often seamlessly integrated into the classroom curriculum. So many impactful memoirs are published every year, and it can be difficult to narrow down the best selections for your students. Not sure where to start? Here are Prestwick House’s 12 Must-Read Memoirs for Both Teachers and Students.  

Additionally, here at JLG we offer a Biography Elementary Plus, Biography Middle Plus, and a Biography High Plus category to give your readers of all ages access to impactful historical biographies  

What differentiates memoirs, biographies, and autobiographies? 

While all three of these types of writing have an important place in both the classroom, and the library, they do differ slightly. “Autobiography” and “memoir” are sometimes used interchangeably, although this is not correct. An autobiography is a first-hand retelling of a person’s entire life. A memoir tends to focus on one chapter or set of experiences in the author’s lifetime. And finally, a biography is a retelling of a person’s entire life written by another author.  

How can you celebrate National Memoir Day? 

There are so many wonderful ways to celebrate National Memoir Day, but the most obvious is to pick up a book! There are thousands of new memoirs every month to dive right into. You can also check out some of our past JLG webcasts that focus on memoirs. And finally, one of the best ways to celebrate any book-related holiday is to visit your local library to show your support.