Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Hot Spots for Reading

Previously I have posted about those online applications that track reading and provide the opportunity for readers to post their own reviews, particularly children, young adults, and/or students.  One post titled What's a Bookprint?  addresses the services offered by Scholastic in their You Are What You Read application for adults and its counterpart for younger readers which is a part of their The Stacks program.  Scholastic also offers the chance for the writing of book reviews for grades 3-12 at a site titled Share What You're Reading.  I reviewed this application in a post titled Books, Books, and More Books...Write and Read.

Two new applications have come to my attention through the wire on Twitter from multiple sources. The first of these is Start with A Book for children ages 3-9 designed and produced by Reading Rockets with assistance by the Park Foundation with no cost to users.  When viewing the home page at the site across the top are sections titled:  Summer Themes, Reading Aloud, Fluent Kids, Great Kids' Books, More Literacy Resources and Discover DC for Kids.

A user can also get to each of these resources by scrolling down further on the page and clicking on the appropriate link.  The summer themes include twenty-four different categories which can be viewed much like a slide show by clicking on the arrows.  Selecting a favorite takes the user to another page broken into more pieces of information.

I selected the Heroes and Superheroes theme.  To begin the page can be printed, emailed, pinned on Pinterest, added to Google+, tweeted on Twitter or liked on Facebook.  The first part is the explanation of what is available in Family Literacy Bags.  They are in PDF.  Here is an example of one titled Flight.

Beneath that is an annotated list of related Great Fiction and Nonfiction books followed by Read Aloud Tips and Downloadables.  On the right side of the page is a column containing a Meet The Authors video, Growing Readers: Parent Tips and/or Hands-on Activities, Summer Writing ideas, Great Websites for Kids, and suggested Mobile Apps.  Within some of the themes this is followed by Things to Do, Places to Go in Washington, D. C. and the Reading Tip of the Day.

Each of the initially mentioned sections is a full page of multiple links featuring engaging and enjoyable ideas for closing the reading gap which occurs during the summer.  There is something here for everyone at  Start with a Book and enough ideas to last for longer than three months.  This is a go-to website for improving possibilities for your children by increasing their love of reading.

BiblioNasium is the second site.  This free application is still in beta. In the About section of the site some of the goals state:

We are dedicated to the critical belief that all kids can fall in love with reading. Consistent support and just the right book can ignite the spark. 

Part kid's social network, part parent’s guide, part teacher’s tool, BiblioNasium blends technology with personal connection to create a supportive, engaging space for reading success.

BiblioNasium is designed for those children aged 6-12.  All users of the site under the age of 13 must have parental/guardian permission.  BiblioNasium has partnered with the company responsible for providing The Lexile Framework for Reading

When you register, do so as a child, parent or teacher.  To test the site I registered as a teacher.  As an educator you are asked for your email address, first and last name, preferred name and a password.  A confirming email is sent immediately with a link.

When first logging in you are asked if you wish to Manage Classroom Book Lists, Challenge Your Students, go to Student Reports or Manage Class.  Prior to using any of those formats you need to set up a class.  Up to thirty-two students can be entered in a class giving each of them a unique user ID and password.  For the class as a whole you are asked to pick which platform is used for measuring reading levels, Lexile, Guide Reading, DRA or Reading Recovery.  The system asks you to give for each student a last name or initial, first name, reading level and parent email.

At your home page you can work on setting up your virtual bookshelf, My Books.  On the shelf are placed your favorites, recommended, required or classroom wish list books.  Books are added to the shelf by searching by title, author, category, or Lexile reading level.

When your book is found you are asked to place it in one or more of the tabbed categories listed above the shelf.  Then you can recommend it to all or any number of students chosen in your class.  A series of pre-written notes can be attached to the recommendation or you can write a more personal one.

When you click on My Classes you are shown your bookshelf, your student names and pictures and any challenges you have created.  Challenges are lists of books to read as a class, for a group or perhaps an individual.  In a challenge a class is chosen, the challenge is named, a category is selected or you can choose your own book titles. 

Reports, once a student(s) is selected, show for each:  books, active challenges, awards and logs which include a line for date, reading material, pages, time logged and Lexile.  The Suggested Reading tab are those books picked by BiblioNasium.  They are grouped by favorites, popular series, prize winners and fun titles.

Though in beta BiblioNasium offers multiple choices for a classroom teacher to get students excited about reading and to design reading around their interests and reading levels.  A major plus is the security provided due to the age of users.  In needing parental/guardian permission for children to use the site, the involvement and guidance of an adult is assured.

In an email exchange with BiblioNasium I was informed that by the end of this week the 32 student limit will be lifted to accommodate librarians who wish to use this application.  Also if educators wish to upload their class lists using Excel, that will be an option. This is very good news on both counts.  The introductory video below gives a clearer picture of what an individual child might do using this application. 

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