Redefining nerd

So about a year ago, this happened during a book club:
 "Mrs. Ramsey! I read more than we had to- it was so good!" When discussing a character they described him as a nerd. We laughed, we learned, we enjoyed a book - together.
I said "Uh oh- looks like you guys are starting to like to read." 
"Don't tell- they'll think we're nerds."  And then, more laughs.

This really got me to thinking- since when did it become a stigma to read? And why is it that reading is perceived as nerdy? What about bookworms? Why is it so bad to want to be so enamored with a book that you devour it? 

I've come to realize in the last year, what it is to become a book nerd. I cannot believe that in the last year I have chosen to read for fun more often than not. I never thought reading could be fun. And further, I didn't want to be a nerd- so why read? 

Reading has not made me a nerd- nor a bookworm. It has made me thoughtful. I see the world around me in a new way. I have grown up in the south- lived in the same county for all but 2 years of my life, even teach in the same school system I grew up in. I'm not saying that growing up in one spot is bad- but I have been very sheltered/or naive/ or limited in my thinking. Hang with me, this will make sense. 

I read On the Corner of Bitter and Sweet this summer. It never occurred to me that there was prejudice aside from what I grew up in, and aside from what we see on the news every night. To think that in the Pacific Northwest of the 1940s there was an entirely different bias never occurred to me. The world as I know it expanded after that book.

Follow on those heels the book People of the Book. It was not an easy read for me- I needed to stop and read up on some history- to understand the prejudices between different religions/ethnic groups in Eastern Europe. Amazing to me.

Next was Brown Girl Dreaming.  To hear Jacqueline Woodson describe her life, her trials, her mother's perceptions of northern vs. southern- wow. Mind blown. Again, my horizons expanded and grew.  

And in the last week Arcadia and Beautiful Music for Ugly Children. Two more works telling stories of subcultures/disenfranchised people in our world- showing me that life is vast and varied. 

All this to say- I think readers get a bad rap. defines a nerd as "an intelligent but single-minded person obsessed with a nonsocial hobby or pursuit."

Being a reader may be an obsession which in the moment is nonsocial, but I would say that reading makes me more thoughtful about the world around me and the people in it. Reading has changed me
into a more social person- I talk about my hobby. I talk about the books I read with people and get new ideas or get questions answered. And even better- I get new book ideas to read! (3 of the 5 previous books came from a conversation about books!)

If being a reader is synonymous with nerd, and becoming more educated, thoughtful, and caring are the results- then I'll take both those titles.  I can't think of anyone who wouldn't want to be those things.

My hope: to create a generation of these kinds of nerds.


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