Why Kids Need Goodreads

One of the core beliefs of my interdisciplinary team is that our sixth grade students need to see ALL of their teachers — not just the language arts teacher — as readers. 

As a result, we've decided that (1). silent reading will happen once a week in every classroom, giving every teacher the chance to talk about books with kids and (2). every teacher will take students to the library for media circulation during the course of the year. 

That's given me a bunch of time to get to know our school's new media specialist, Pete Caggia

What I love about Pete — outside of his quirky sense of humor and deep knowledge of books that middle schoolers might completely dig — is that he's AT LEAST as knowledgeable and passionate about using technology with students as I am. 

That shared interest got us talking about Goodreads — the popular social site that allows users to network with one another around the books that they are reading — the other day. 

What makes Goodreads so powerful is that it enables readers to discover high-interest titles — either by following the public bookshelves of like-minded peers, by making recommendations to their friends, or by checking the suggestions offered by Goodreads — that they may never have stumbled across.

Heck, Goodreads' slogan says it all:  Meet Your Next Favorite Book.

That process of discovering new texts — of stumbling across topics and titles that have a real chance of capturing attention — comes naturally for accomplished readers who almost NEVER walk into the library without SOME idea of what they're interested in reading next.

But spend some time watching struggling readers browsing for books and you'll quickly recognize that sifting and sorting through shelves can be a haphazard process that rarely pays off for a BUNCH of our kids.  Finding favorite books just doesn't happen NEARLY enough. 

And that's frightening because every poorly chosen title reinforces negative messages: "Reading is NEVER fun; There's NOTHING I like to read; The library is a place that I don't fit in."

That got Pete and I thinking.  If we could get our students networking with each other in a social space like Goodreads, would struggling readers be more purposeful — and more successful — when browsing for books?

So Pete created logins for every one of my kids on Destiny Quest — a Goodreads-ish social service for students that is aligned with our district's library management program. 

In the course of one 45-minute class period, every student had signed in, filled their digital bookshelves with books they HAVE read, ARE reading and WANT to read. 

They'd also followed a handful of friends on our team — peers that share similar interests whose bookshelves they want to explore — learned how to find recommendations from Destiny Quest, and figured out how to write reviews and give star ratings to the books that they were reading.

Since then, traffic on the site has been nothing short of incredible. There hasn't been a day — including long holiday weekends — where students haven't been signing in, adding titles to their bookshelves, and making recommendations to their friends. 

The simple truth is that Destiny Quest has made sharing titles with friends easier — a key to engaging middle grades readers who ALREADY get most of their book recommendations from peers. 

As one of students on my team explained:

I think the Destiny Quest program is really useful because I get most of
my book recommendations from friends already so now instead of having
to ask them what books they really liked I can just see what books they
are reading on Destiny Quest and get a good idea.

I think Pete and I are on to something here.  I'll keep you posted as the year goes on.

_________________________

Related Radical Reads:

Real Men Read

Maybe Reading ISN'T Fun

Reading is NOT Optional

 

11 thoughts on “Why Kids Need Goodreads

  1. BiblioNasium

    Dear Mr. Ferriter
    We are delighted to introduce you and all your followers to BiblioNasium, Where Kids Flex Their Reading Muscles!
    We are the “GoodReads” for the K-8 age group. We connect children to the three constituents that most influence what they read: their teachers, friends and parents so that they can exchange book recommendations. They can catalogue the books they are reading and keep track. In addition we have features specially designed for this age group: we have online reading log/records, virtual rewards, ability to setup reading challenges, and a tight integration with Lexile so teachers and kids can select books that “fit” their reading level.
    We invite you to join our site (its FREE) and try it out. We look forward to your comments and feedback. We think you will be pleasantly surprised with all we offer. Warm Regards
    The Team at BiblioNasium

  2. Bill Ferriter

    Hey Marie,
    Heres the bad news about Goodreads: The terms of service require that users be older than 13!
    Thats pretty common for web services, but it definitely makes Goodreads useless to those of us teaching younger kids.
    Check in with your media specialist though: You might find that there is a kid-friendly service already supported by your districts library management system.
    #fingerscrossed
    Bill

  3. Marie King

    Great post! I am a grade school teacher and sometimes find myself racking my brain trying to think of ways to engage my students in ways that I haven’t before, all the while making what we’re learning or reading fun. I may have to look in to Goodreads, it might be just what I’m looking for. I just read a great book you might like, it’s called “Teach Like A PIRATE” by Dave Burgess. You can check him out and get the book right from the website http://daveburgess.com/. Thanks for the post!

  4. Bill Ferriter

    Dale asked:
    Does your team set aside a silent reading time each week at a consistent time? If so, how long is the silent reading time?
    – – – – – – – –
    Hey Dale,
    First, youre going to LOVE Destiny Quest. Its REALLY cool and my kids are all way into it.
    Second, our team does silent reading every day for 30 minutes. It rotates between classes — so the kids read in my science room on Fridays for 30 minutes, in language arts on Mondays, in math on Tuesdays and in social studies on Wednesdays. On Thursdays, we do team silent reading all at once.
    We really wanted the kids to see all of us as readers. Thats why we rotate silent reading. But we also like it because giving up time one day a week is easy AND it gets the kids silent reading EVERY day.
    Hope this helps,
    Bill

  5. Patrick Higgins

    Bill,
    Oh, we have to talk about this one. I dis a lot of work in the concept of viral reading in my last district that I’d love to share with you. Awesome ideas you lay out here my friend.

  6. Dale

    I love this idea, Bill. Our school uses Destiny. After speaking with my librarian, I found out we did have access to Quest but haven’t been using it. We are going to try it. Does your team set aside a silent reading time each week at a consistent time? If so, how long is the silent reading time?

  7. Geektechteacherdad.wordpress.com

    I’ve been looking for a kids version of Goodreads for a long time now. Our building uses Alexandria which, as far as I know, doesn’t have a feature like that. I’m surprised the people at Goodreads haven’t created a kid safe/friendly version on their own.

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