Rookie of the Year, A #BookJourney Adventure, Part I

Last November, I traveled to Minneapolis for the NCTE annual conference in Minneapolis. It was one of the best conferences I ever attended. My Personal Learning Network (PLN) came to life. I got to in-person meet so many of the friends and colleagues I’d been interacting with for years on social media. On top of that, I signed copies of A Whole New Ballgame, the first book in my Rip and Red middle grade series, and Advance Readers Copies (ARCs) of Rookie of the Year, the second novel in the series.

At the time, I had no idea that nine passionate educators —  Scott Fillner, Christina Hanson, Sarah Levy, Nicole Otting, Beth Parmer, Kristen Picone, Stacey Riedmiller, James (Jimmy) Sapia, and Amanda Schreiber — would then send one of those ARCs on a shared learning adventure called a #BookJourney.

Here’s Part I of my conversation with the entire #BookJourney Crew:


“Up until the ROOKIE OF THE YEAR #BookJourney,

I wasn’t all that familiar with the concept of a

#BookJourney. How did you first learn about this idea?

Did you come up with it?”


KRISTEN: I actually first learned about the #BookJourney idea from Michele Knott. She and I have been connected on Twitter and Voxer for some time now. Last school year, Michele started a journey of Yard Sale by Eve Bunting and illustrated by Lauren Castillo. The premise of that journey was for the book to make its way to various classrooms around the country. By the time it reached my classroom, other students from other classes had written comments to Lauren on the inside of the cover. My students added their thoughts, and the book eventually reached eleven different classrooms!

STACEY: I know the exact moment our #BookJourney started. Beth posted a picture of Kwame Alexander’s Booked (on Twitter, of course), and I commented by saying something along the lines of, “wow, can’t wait to read this one.” Beth, being the outstanding human being she is, told me she would send it to me.


“wow, can’t wait to read this one.”

~STACEY


BETH: That’s how I remember it. In November, I was lucky enough to win an ARC of Booked. When I tweeted a pic of it and Stacey tweeted back, I knew I could either keep staring at this prized possession on my bookshelf, or I could send it her way. After I tweeted I was sharing it with Stacey, Kristen reached out next.

NICOLE: Stacey sent me a text asking me if I’d be interested in reading Booked. She said her friend was reading it and was planning to pass it around before its release. Of course I jumped at the chance!

KRISTEN: I actually first learned about the #BookJourney idea from Michele Knott. She and I have been connected on Twitter and Voxer for some time now. Last school year, Michele started a journey of Yard Sale by Eve Bunting and illustrated by Lauren Castillo. The premise of that journey was for the book to make its way to various classrooms around the country. By the time it reached my classroom, other students from other classes had written comments to Lauren on the inside of the cover. My students added their thoughts, and the book eventually reached eleven different classrooms!

JIMMY: My #BookJourney started with Stacy, too. I saw her post of Booked on Instagram and casually mentioned I’d love to read it. She told me a couple of teachers were ahead of her, but she’d happily send it to me after.

SCOTT: What I remember is that either Beth or Kristen mentioned on Twitter –top ten greatest inventions of all time — they had an ARC of Booked, and I replied I would love to read it. Moments later, someone replied that I was on the list.

SCOTT: What I remember is that either Beth or Kristen mentioned on Twitter –top ten greatest inventions of all time — they had an ARC of Booked, and I replied I would love to read it. Moments later, someone replied that I was on the list.

CHRISTINA: I had a similar start. I saw Stacey, Nicole, and Amanda talking about Booked on Twitter, and I casually commented to Amanda that she was so lucky to be able to read it, and I couldn’t wait to hear what she thought of it. Next thing I knew, Amanda said that if I was interested, I could be added to the list! Of course, I was interested! I’d never read an ARC before.

SARAH: I was one of the last members to be added, and everyday, I am thankful. When I saw Booked traveling around and being shared by so many of the teachers I admire on social media, I thought, “Wow, I would love to get in on that!” Well, the planets aligned, and Christina asked if I would like to read it after her. I did a dance and then said, “yes!”

NICOLE: When I received the book, there were all of these post-it notes with comments and questions along the way. We signed the inside cover and added our own notes.

BETH: Kristen had the idea that we should leave our thoughts on post-its.


“Wow, I would love to get in on that!”

~ Sarah


SCOTT: I remember tweeting out pictures of the post-its from previous readers and pictures of my own post-its. After the playful back-and-forth continued with tweets, it got really hard to reflect and include all the members at the same time on the one tweet. One of the members — Jimmy I think– suggested we make a Google Doc. Then someone else suggested we also start a Voxer so we could reflect.

SARAH: When Jimmy was kind enough to add me to the #BookJourney Voxer group, that was my ticket into the amazing!

AMANDA: To be honest, we had no clue what we were starting or even doing. It sort of grew and took shape and then eventually became #BookJourney. When it first started, it didn’t even have a name.

KRISTEN: The #BookJourney hashtag seemed to happen organically for this particular group. The first time I used the #BookJourney hashtag was when I finished Booked. Beth used it next when she received Rookie of the Year. After that, we started using the hashtag so we could easily find our tweets.

Nine of you participated in this #BookJourney. How did you meet? Or maybe the better question is, have you met?

SARAH: Most of us have not met! Personally, I haven’t met any of my fellow #BookJourney tribe members.

SCOTT: It’s crazy to think I haven’t met a single one of you face-to-face!

JIMMY: I haven’t met any of the #BookJourney members. I think it’s kind of cool that I haven’t.

AMANDA: I knew Stacey and Nicole from Instagram. We discovered we lived within thirty minutes of one another so we met up. Since then, we’ve grown to be great friends.

CHRISTINA: I met most of the #BookJourney group through Twitter and Instagram. Some of us got to know each other by participating in weekly Twitter chats (#titletalk, #Read4Fun, #6thchat, and #ShelfieTalk). On Instagram, many of us were sharing pictures of books and liking/commenting on similar photos. We got to know each other through that, but I’ve not met anyone in real-life in our #BookJourney group. I plan to this summer.

SARAH: I can’t speak for the other eight members, but I am dying to meet everyone face-to-face! We have some hopeful meet-up dates including nErDcampMIin July!


“I am dying to meet everyone face-to-face! We have some hopeful meet-up dates”


STACEY: A lot of us will be at nErDcampMI this summer. We are so pumped to hang out!

CHRISTINA: I am beyond excited to be able to actually hang out with everyone at nErDcampMI this summer!

NICOLE: I can’t wait either! Other than Stacey and Amanda, I have not officially met the other #BookJourney members.

KRISTEN: Jimmy and I will hopefully meet at nErDcampLI, if not before!

BETH: Getting our whole group together would be a Dream. Come. True. I’m pretty sure it would involve a lot of screaming, hugging and laughing… and of course, book sharing.

SCOTT: Through Twitter and Voxer, I honestly feel like the #BookJourney members are colleagues in the same building where I work at. You truly feel like family. I know what you like to eat and drink, your kids’ names, what they like to read, and even what your spouses are like.

SARAH: I feel like we’ve known each other for years!

For many of us, our professional learning network (PLN) has roots in the Nerdy Book Club. What’s your Nerdy story? How did you get involved?

BETH: Years ago, I read Donalyn Miller’s The Book Whisperer and saw her at a local conference. I read the Nerdy Book Club blog from time-to-time, but it wasn’t until I became more active on Twitter that I really began to embrace it. Last summer I attended nErDcampMI for the first time. It was amazing!

STACEY: Nerdy Book Club came into my life three summers ago. I set up a teacher Twitter account after reading Donalyn Miller’s Reading in the Wild and The Book Whisperer. Right away, I felt something click inside of me. I knew my life-long passion for books and my new career as a teacher could finally be happily married.

JIMMY: When I first got started on Twitter, the Nerdy Book Club hashtag was one of the most frequently used hashtags I saw. I discovered the website, and my life changed forever.

SCOTT: After serving as an instructional coach and building facilitator for five years, I was thrilled when the opportunity came along to teach fourth grade in the same district and building where my three children went to school. Being out of the classroom for five years, I wanted to see what everyone was reading these days because I’d focused so much of my last five years on professional learning. That’s how I got hooked up. The Nerdy Book Club awakened me as a reader and reignited a kidlit reading passion I hadn’t seen in myself for a while.

STACEY: When I got involved, nErDcampMI was just starting. I made plans then and there to attend the following summer. Before going, I wrote a Nerdy Book Club post on Lynda Mullaly Hunt’s Fish in a Tree.Submitting was a big deal for me, and the post published the day before Cassie Beasley’s instantly famous post.I attended Nerd Camp, met Donalyn, and knew that there was no turning back. I had reached Nerd status!

Are there any #BookJourney rules? Any norms or guidelines that have evolved over time?

AMANDA: Our rules are simple: Love books and have a strong gif game!

NICOLE: You definitely have to have a strong gif game in this group! We love to send animated gifs for a variety of situations. We also have quite a few inside jokes. You have to have a tolerance for Scott singing the bananas song when something good happens!

KRISTEN: Some people in the group are incredibly talented artists and have gotten really fancy with their envelopes. I wish I had those art skills! We’ve gone from simply mailing books to sometimes including little treats or special post-its along with the books.

AMANDA: We use Google Docs to determine who’s next for each book, and we always ask first in case someone has a backlog of books. If they’re not ready we skip and go to the next person. If we have a big decision, we take a vote or ask for everyone’s input.

SCOTT: We’ve never really specifically set up norms or rules. We simply “clicked” from the beginning and seem to really have the same foundational beliefs. We want to share amazing books and the amazing work that authors, illustrators, and publishers have been doing. We truly believe that this sharing — with each other, with social media, and with the authors, illustrators, and publishers — has a direct impact on our students and families.

STACEY: Stay humble, be kind. We work hard to develop relationships with authors and illustrators because we are genuinely interested in knowing and supporting them and their work. It helps connect our kids to more people and more stories. It always comes back to the kids. The more we develop relationships and understand books and publishing, the more positive experiences our students will have with this world.

BETH: I think the most important norm is one that all of us hold deeply in our hearts –this is a privilege. To hold the work another person has poured their souls into, to share it with each other, and then put it in the hands of young readers–it’s an honor.

What has been the most unexpected part of the #BookJourney experience?

SARAH: How quickly we became a family. #Bookjourney came into my life around the time my boyfriend deployed with the Navy. He’s been in the military for about four years so this lifestyle isn’t foreign to us. However, that doesn’t make a deployment any easier. How quickly and easily the #BookJourney crew became a daily part of my life was amazing and has really helped me through these last few months.

SCOTT: Hands down it’s been the relationships we’ve built with each other.

AMANDA: Yes. Finding lifelong friends has been the best and most unexpected part of this entire experience. My #BookJourney crew is kind, genuine, and passionate. In just a few short months, we’ve shared a lot, from inside jokes to classroom ideas.

JIMMY: The most unexpected part: I now consider this tribe of people my friends who came together around a share love for our passion of kid lit. We talk just about everyday.

STACEY: The friendships have been the best and most unexpected part. Both between members and between members and authors.

SCOTT: The relationships we’ve formed with authors, illustrators, and publishers has been great. This year, my class had the opportunity to Skype with four authors: Jennifer Bertman, Dan Gemeinhart, Natalie Lloyd, and Barbara O’Connor. Prior to each Skype, we interacted on Twitter and via e-mail. The day each author actually connected with the class — it seriously felt like we’d known each other for a while.

KRISTEN: The most unexpected part for me has been the attention from so many kind and generous authors. I’m just a fifth grade teacher who loves to read, who may have a slight book-buying addiction, and who greatly admires the work of the authors who inspire my students. While I always knew authors were phenomenal people, I am now even more touched by their generosity and desire to connect with their readers. Victoria Coe has been an amazing supporter. So has Nora Raleigh Baskin,Jenn Bishop, Barbara O’Connor, Elly Swartz…and the list goes on.


“The most unexpected part for me has been the attention from so many kind and generous authors.”


CHRISTINA: It’s definitely the communication with the authors! It’s so cool to have authors like, reply, and re-tweet the posts about the books we are reading. Before social media, the only way to interact with authors would be to write a letter, and even then, you didn’t know if authors would respond.

BETH: I never dreamed that the simple act of mailing an ARC to a stranger would lead to being in the same room as Kwame Alexander where he greeted me by name, and hugged me as I handed him that very ARC covered in post-it notes. That was pretty incredible. Honestly, the tweets we receive, the handwritten notes from authors, this blog post…it’s all unexpected. We’re very lucky.

NICOLE: For me, I would say the most unexpected — but not surprising part — of the #BookJourney crew is how much I am encouraged to try new things when it comes to teaching and reading. I have tried genres I wouldn’t normally read, books that don’t even go on Journeys necessarily. Several of us are trying Mock Newbery this year with our students for the first time. The collaboration among the group is fantastic.

Please come back tomorrow for Part II of the #BookJourney conversation.

Please consider following these educators on Twitter:

Scott Fillner (@sfillner)

Christina Hanson (@hansonhallway)

Sarah Levy (@teachreadrepeat)

Nicole Otting (@nmotting)

Beth Parmer (@Beth_Parmer)

Kristen Picone (@Kpteach5)

Stacey Riedmiller (@literacybigkids)

James Sapia (@mrsapia_teach)

and Amanda Schreiber (@MsAPlusTeacher).

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