A Very Nerdy Spring and Summer

Hello, friends!

It’s been a busy couple of months. Since I last checked in, I’ve been in Vermont, Kansas, Colorado, and Michigan. I took three of these four trips in order to attend those states’ nErDcamps.

nErDcamps are one-of-a-kind events where educators and creators come together to celebrate books and reading and, more importantly, learn from and inspire one another. The very first nErDcamp (a term built from “EDcamp” and the “nerd” of the online #nerdybookclub movement) took place six years ago in Parma, Michigan, and was labeled an “unconference” — instead of a day of pre-planned, scheduled sessions, participants showed up and organized a day of sessions on the spot, based on what they wanted to share and learn about.

Around 150 educators attended that very first nErDcamp. This year’s nErDcampMI had an attendance of nearly 2,000 (with a waitlist, one organizer told me, double that). There were also over 1,000 kids in attendance for nErDcampMI’s nErDcamp Jr., an evening during which local kids come to hang out with and learn from authors and illustrators and, amazingly, walk away with at least one, but often several, brand new books.

Michigan’s nErDcamp is by far the largest. But that first one six years ago launched a movement, and inspired others to organize nErDcamps of their own. Nearly a dozen have sprung up in the years since, and there are more in the works as I write this. The nErDcamp I attended in Vermont was that state’s first. The one I attended in Kansas was that state’s third. Each camp works a bit differently — some mix pre-planned sessions with the “unconference” style’s on-the-spot session creation — but they are all fueled by the same spirit, and by the same understanding: that by working together, kids’ educators and creators can more effectively make a difference in the lives of kids. And isn’t that why we’re all doing what we do every day?

If you are an educator, a creator, or otherwise involved in the process of getting books into kids hands and/or the promotion of reading, I cannot encourage you enough to attend a camp. I assure you that you will be warmly welcomed, make friends, learn loads, and leave feeling inspired and hope-filled.

Below you’ll find a list of all the nErDcamps I know of (if I missed any, let me know!). Follow the links to learn more, and find the various camp’s on social media (especially Twitter). Many of their accounts are active all year long, and do more than just share info about their camp itself. Also keep an eye out for new nErDcamps being launched in Central NY (follow Corrina Allen, Susan Sullivan, and Erin Varley on Twitter so as not to miss any info or announcements) and on the West Coast (follow Jennifer Druffel to keep in the loop about that).

And you can find ME at two more nErDcamps before the year is out: nErDcampNNE (up in Maine in September) and nErDcampLI (on Long Island in November). More info about both can be found on my Appearances page and at the camps’ websites/social media accounts. Hope to see you there!

Until next time: STAY NERDY!

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nErDcampMI

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nErDcampLI

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nErDcampNJ

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nErDcampNNE

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nErDcampKS

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nErDcampVT

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nErDcampNC

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nErDcampGA

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nErDcampIndy

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nErDcamp Bellingham

 

#KidsNeedBooks

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A few weeks ago, my friend Ann Braden — author of the forthcoming MG novelĀ The Benefits of Being an Octopus — did something pretty amazing. Inspired by a blog post from Donalyn Miller and moved by a flurry of tweets from educators expressing frustration, sadness, and even fear about the fact that their students were soon leaving school for summer break and wouldn’t have any books to read until they returned in the fall, Ann picked through her shelves and put together a stack of books that she was willing to part with. Educators interested in the books simply needed to retweet Ann’s tweet in order to enter the giveaway.

I saw Ann’s tweet, and was inspired to do what I could to help. That same night, I went home and put together a stack of my own. All the books were ones that I had read and enjoyed, even loved, and that I had purchased with the intent of having them on my shelves forever. But as soon as I considered the fact that there were a tremendous number of young readers out there who, for one reason or another, were facing the prospect of being book-less all summer long, it wasn’t very hard to part with even the most beloved of these books.

The next day, a couple more authors joined Ann and me. And the day after that, there were a handful more. Ann had got the ball rolling — and pretty soon the thing was justĀ racing along. Up to a dozen new stacks were offered on every one of the following days. As of this post, nearly 90 authors have joined our little movement, and well over a hundred stacks of books have been given away. And these stacks were by no means small. Some contained 20 or even 30 books. Officially, the #KidsNeedBooks crew has given away over 500 books. But a huge number of books have been shipped out unofficially, and by my estimate, we’re closer to 1,000. (Below are the stacks I’ve so far given.)

As wonderful as this has all been, it is, sadly, not nearly enough. Our country is riddled with so-called “book deserts,” but all of us authors behind #KidsNeedBooks are committed to doing everything we can to continue flooding these places with books. We have been and are looking forward to working more closely with educators and librarians in a number of ways and on a number of projects, not only to get books into their students’ hands, but also to connect and engage with kids in other ways. As I’ve said before, kid lit authors and educators are colleagues, all of us united in our mission to enhance and enrich the lives of kids. When we work together, we can do more, and do it better.

Click here and here to read more about #KidsNeedBooks at Ann’s website. Click here to read coverage of the #KidsNeedBooks movement in the School Library Journal. And click here to sign up for the #KidsNeedBooks newsletter, through which we’ll keep you updated on our activities and alert you to opportunities to get involved.