Lone Nerd to Social Nerd by Patrick Andrus
Presenting at NCTE15 on the Nerdy Book Club panel was a full-circle moment. My reading life started in fifth grade. I was in the “blue birds” group (the lowest). My fifth grade teacher must have seen something in me because she decided to move me up the “middle” group.
The journey from fifth grade through the years was a solo one. The older I got the more I enjoyed works of fiction and the pleasure those stories brought to my life. As I looked around it didn’t seem the people I knew had the same passion.
My favorite class in college was children’s literature. I began to expand my reading from adult books to middle-grade stories. I remember giving a speech on the Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson. When I finished, the professor said, “You sure were passionate about this novel.” I guess I was and that passion would continue to grow.
My read aloud seemed deeper than some of my colleagues. While they would grab, I spent time reading books trying to find the perfect one. The read aloud became the focal point of my classroom. The collaboration with co-workers was still missing and I craved “talk” with others.
Years ago my mom called and told me Oprah started a book club with the country. I got to thinking that if Oprah could do this with her audience, I could with my students. Breakfast with Books was born. We began to read a book a month, meet, and enjoy breakfast. I was moving forward, but something was still missing…
As I would travel to my kids’ sporting events, I brought a book. “Twitter” had started and I wanted to spy on them; so I set up a profile. While browsing the app, I came across Donalyn Miller’s profile. Our first tweet was about Fake Mustache by Tom Angleberger. That first tweet has led to the most incredible changes.
I began to explore Twitter. I discovered other “passionate” readers. Slowly but surely I began to communicate with other educators about reading, books, and authors. Through Twitter I continued to “chat” with Donalyn and was introduced to Colby Sharp and the Nerdy Book Club site.
There was a time when I wasn’t even aware of The Nerdy Book Club. It became a daily activity to check, read posts, and take in the new information. I thought: “You mean there are other “nerds” out there like me?”
The more I visited the site; I realized I had the best intentions when it came to my students’ reading. Many of these “Nerdy” friends had blogs. Someone suggested, “You should start a blog of your own.” What do I know about blogging and do I have anything of value to share?
After careful thought and consideration, I took the leap. I knew I wanted “Read” in the title and my favorite book at the time was Wonder.
ReadWonder was born. It was a slow and scary process. Over 75,000 views and almost 1,200 posts later, it is a part of my soul.
I remember browsing the Nerdy site and noticing a link to be guest blogger. I hit link and submitted. I received email from Colby. For a teacher who hadn’t gone out on a ledge professionally, this was a moment of truth for me. I wrote a “retro review” for The Liberation of Gabriel King by K.L. Going.
That post helped me with ReadWonder and sharing myself as a reader/writer with authentic audience. I submitted another post. This time I wrote about a favorite book called Larger Than Life Lara by Dandi Daley Macall.
The site became a social outlet. I was introduced to educators, authors, librarians, and other NERDY folk. The motivation I felt was great and pushed me forward. My little world expanded and burst the four walls that surrounded me.
Somewhere along the journey, I learned authors were connecting with classrooms. My first request for a Skype visit was with Kim Baker; author of Pickle. The read aloud and Breakfast with Books went 2.0.
Over the last few years I’ve had surreal moments connecting authors with readers. There are too many to name, but some are: Dan Gutman, Sharon Creech, Suzanne Selfors, and Jory John.
We’ve had the opportunity to connect with local authors. Over the last several years, Erin Soderberg (author of The Quirks) has joined our Breakfast with Books book club. Shelley Tougas, the author of The Graham Cracker Plot, has also joined us.
Another new experience was #TitleTalk. The monthly twitter chat on a reading topic brings together Nerdy Book Club members. I look forward to this social interaction. The hour energizes me. The concepts and ideas covered benefit my students.
Because of my connection to the site, I’ve been exposed to new resources. I learned about Good Reads, which has expanded my network of reading friends. I was always in awe of the teachers talking about ARCS. Now that I’m a member of Net Galley, I’ve had the good fortune of reading ARCS.
The Nerdy Book Club has changed my teaching career. New book titles, authors, and teaching practices come from the blog. The only downfall is the book budget is larger.
The site not only benefits myself, but also has a positive effect on my students. The readers have more books in their hands and hearts. They are connecting with “real-life” authors. Presenting in November was truly a full-circle moment. I have my fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Smith, to thank because she truly sent me on this reading journey!
Patrick Andrus is a fourth grade teacher in Eden Prairie, MN. His number one goal for his students is to create an internal passion for reading and books. He makes it a daily habit of visiting the Nerdy Book Club Site. Several years ago he started his own blog that you can find by visiting http://readwonder.blogspot.com. He is also an active member on Twitter and his screen name is patrickontwit. He had the honor of presenting with the Nerdy Book Club at NCTE this past November in Minneapolis and is hoping to attend Nerd Camp this July in Michigan. He is truly embracing his inner NERD!