Reading Artifacts by Mandy Robek

A year ago the Nerdy Book Club was created after NCTE in Chicago.  I wasn’t quite sure what it was going be about.  I didn’t think I needed to join one more thing, read one more blog, or join one more piece of social media.  I also wasn’t sure if I “qualified” as a Nerdy Book Club member.  I have watched this spot on the web throughout the year and as time went on I knew I was a Nerdy Book Club member.  My friends and new friends to be were posting wonderful thinking and various thoughts all around the topic of books.  It seemed pretty fair game when it came to “qualifying”.  I began pondering what could be my own personal spin to the Nerdy Book Club.  As a member, I want to contribute fairly to the organization.  This is why I belong in the Nerdy Book Club.


Artifacts.  Reading Artifacts.

 mandy 1

In my basement there is an old toy chest my mother packed for me.  It’s filled a few things from my childhood – drawings, my Dressy Betsy Doll, my stuff cow that actually makes a sliding moo sound, my kindergarten artwork, and the rest is all literacy related.  I hang on to this chest because she packed it for me musty smell and all.  However, today I realized I hang on to it because it captures a part of my reading life.


I read 58 books in first grade.  I have evidence, 58 mounted handmade completed certificates from my first grade teacher, Mrs. Ingram.  I read Great Day Far UpDuck in the Park Duck in the DarkPuppy LovePlay with Us and many more.  There are various versions but this message she chose to hand write might have guided me further on my reading journey – Reading increases knowledge.


Yes, it’s true I have my Tigers, Lions, and Dinosaur basal reader workbook.  Completed.  I know at one point I had them all for each grade but realized that wasn’t the teaching path I was taking and decided to just keep one as an artifact.


I even have my Galaxies Reading Test from when I was 11 in sixth grade.  The Odyssey portion of this test shows I needed to continue working on Literary Skills, Decoding, and Reference skills.  Thank goodness my Comprehension skills were all in the clear.


Later in life, my elementary school librarian became my step grandmother.  I think she retired from being our elementary school librarian after I was out of college.  When she did she sent me a couple of books she found in the school collection that I was the last person to check out.  I guess these titles weren’t too popular;  Real Adventure with the Pilgrim Settlers and America is Born.  I loved reading about history.  I remember studying the Native Americans, Explorers, US States, and then European countries.


While yes I grew up in a time of educating students with basal readers, spelling list, and workbooks I was also surrounded by people who supported reading actual books.  My toy chest is filled with books my Mom and Dad purchased for me.  I remember many, many trips to our local library and the children’s section being down in the basement.  My favorite section over to the right.  I remember shopping through book club orders and being able to get a book or two.  Money was a bit tight growing up and I’m thankful my parents fostered reading in our home.


As I look at this collection today I think my Mom was one smart lady.  I have an alphabet book and a collection of magnetic letters.  There are collections of fairy tales, nursery rhymes, and mother goose.  I have picture books; Katy No Pocket, Sylvester and the Magic Pebble and The Camel Who Took a Walk to name a few.  I have a few holiday books about Christmas.  I have chapter books.  I loved reading mysteries.  I have Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden, Alfred Hitchcock.  I can’t tell you how many times I read The Three Investigators in the Mystery of the Green Ghost!  I have a book by Judy Blume and another by Beverly Cleary.  I had favorite authors to read.  I have a few books about horses.  I had a topic of interest to read.  I have the entire collection of The Little House on the Prairie books.  Yes, you could find me each week watching this show on TV.  I loved the character Snoopy and have a collection of Snoopy books, yes cartoon format but now I think they would be considered graphic novels.  I still have my childhood cookbook in the kitchen.


All these books, authors, and genres have continued to influence my reading life as an adult.  I like to read realistic fiction, mysteries, and nonfiction.  I have favorite authors, series, and topics I like reading about.  I survived testing and basal readers because my family provided balance.  A lesson for all of us to learn from.  We can do our best to help our students and our own children to find balance and become readers who cherish books and reading for enjoyment.  Thank you Nerdy Book Club for providing support and balance for all of it’s members.


Mandy Robek is an elementary teacher who can be found on Twitter as @mandyrobek and on her blog at