What a week of unbelievable experiences! On Saturday, July 9th, I attended the International Literacy Association conference in Boston, where I was extremely honored to sign FENWAY AND HATTIE for over 100 reading teachers and literacy specialists at the Penguin Young Readers booth. It was a thrill to meet and chat with these dedicated literacy professionals at my very first official signing at a major conference!
Afterward, I had the privilege of participating in a Penguin reception. Among the countless highlights was meeting Pernille Ripp, teacher, author of two great books for educators, and founder of the Global Read Aloud. My heart pounded when she asked me to sign FENWAY AND HATTIE for her, and it pounded even harder the next day when she posted online that she was already finishing it!
After a late night at ILA, I met a group of fellow Boston area & New England Nerdy Book Club friends for a trip out to nErD CAMP in Michigan from July 10-13! This annual gathering is a huge opportunity for teachers and librarians who share a love of books and reading to support each other, share resources, and get ideas to use in their classrooms and schools to foster the love of reading in kids.
The wicked nerdy New Englander group included: rockstar teachers/librarians Lesley Burnap, Melisssa Guerrette, Melanie Roy, Erika M. Victor, and Jason Lewis, and hilarious picture book author Josh Funk. We were joined in Detroit by adorable picture book author/illustrator Debbie Ridpath Ohi, and master librarian and wonderful friend Margie Myers-Culver. Later, I was overjoyed to meet one of my heroes, Rachel Harder, a 4th grade teacher from Kansas who works magic with her students.
It's hard to describe the Nerd Camp experience. While I had participated in the regional Nerd Camp Long Island last fall, this was my first time at the national Nerd Camp where more than 1,000 educators and 50 authors and illustrators attended. Basically, it's two days of celebrating books, meeting amazing people, hanging out with friends, being blown away by outstanding speakers, sharing ideas in break-out sessions, and just being nerdy together.
I led a break-out session called "Writing Strategies for Teaching POV" (an evolved version of the session I facilitated at Nerd Camp LI) to an absolutely packed classroom! It was so much fun to demonstrate activities to help the teachers view the world from a dog's perspective. Their engagement and creativity levels were off the charts!
Following the two days of Nerd Camp, I was privileged to take part in Nerd Camp Jr. Over the course of just a few hours, 700 students from the local area attended small group sessions with authors and illustrators with the goal of encouraging a love of writing.
I worked with three groups of awesome 5th graders and got them thinking and writing from a dog's point of view. During the third session, a thunderstorm rolled in and the students started barking at it. Clearly, I did something right!
At one point I was lounging around the lobby when I heard some very familiar words. Turns out one of these awesome students was reading FENWAY AND HATTIE out loud! It was an incredible moment that I will never forget.
Nerd Camp was full of amazing moments like that - hearing inspiring stories from top reading advocates and fantastic authors like Raina Telgemeier and Kate DiCamillo, embedding myself with outstanding teachers and librarians like Margie Myers-Culver (whom I roomed with!), soaking up all the excitement and energy, listening to stories from rockstar teachers that literally gave me chills, and making countless new nerdy friends.
But my number one favorite moment by far was looking out over the gym and thinking about all the kids whose lives will be changed by these energetic, enthusiastic educators. Those kids who need extra nurturing or encouragement. Those kids who will see their teacher's passion and be inspired. Those kids who will be turned on to the joy of reading and it will make all the difference. That realization was just so... WOW.
I'm so glad I got to participate in Nerd Camp this year. Thank you to Colby Sharp and all the organizers of Nerd Camp for including me in this outstanding event. It was an absolutely incredible experience.