As part of this year's #cyberPD, many of us were forced to grapple with how reading logs might connect to the three big ideas of the book: authenticity, intentionality, and connectedness. (This year's #cyberPD book club selection was Digital Reading: What's Essential in Grades 3-8 by William L. Bass II and Franki Sibberson.)
Reading logs have always served multiple purposes. Teachers like reading logs as a means of tracking student reading and growth over time. The best reading logs are often used for student self-reflection and goal setting. At-home reading logs can add an additional layer of accountability, as parents and family members partner with a child to encourage and track his/her reading.
(Please note that I am not advocating for either punitive nor rewards-based types of reading logs. Students should read for authentic reasons and not because a) there will be negative consequences if they do not read nor because b) they can win some kind of prize or reward if they do read.)
Connectedness and Digital Reading Logs
Digital reading logs add many features that are unavailable in traditional pencil and paper reading logs. Connectedness is a huge feature of digital reading logs. Digital reading logs allow students to share their reading and book recommendations with others. Many digital reading log programs also offer targeted suggestions based on previous books.
Kids love receiving book recommendations from others and love it when a friend or family member reads a book they recommended to them. Digital reading logs can help grow and inspire an authentic reading community.
Comparing Digital Reading Logs
Many different teachers in the #cyberPD community offered their suggestions and recommendations about various online reading logs. This post offers a quick overview of the most-recommended of these programs to help you choose the one that best fits your classroom and your intentions.
Biblionasium is a free site that allows teachers to register (with an email address) and then create student accounts with individual log-ins. You can add books to your shelf, rate them, and write reviews. You can also send a personalized recommendation to a classmate. When you search for a book, Biblionasium provides an engaging summary as well as the reading level (teachers can choose between several measures when establishing their account). Parents can create separate accounts and monitor their child's progress, as well as see challenges and recommendations from the teacher.
Teachers choose the settings for any group (class) that they create. This includes whether students' book reviews can be shared, whether reviews must first be approved by the teacher, and whether the site may share book trailers, author interviews, and other videos with students.
The Home page provides a daily book recommendation from "Coach Chip Manzee" (a cartoon monkey). My Books shows a student's bookshelf, as seen above. My Friends includes a list of classmates, as well as any other Friends the child has added (parental approval is required to add friends outside of the class group). Kids can set up their profile to include an avatar picture and modify the background of the site.
My Reading Log functions like a traditional daily reading log. After adding a book to their shelf, a student can record what he/she read, the date, and how many pages or minutes. A text box is also included for comments.
Challenges / My Awards allows the student, teachers, or parents to create a specific reading challenge. Books that are added to a student’s library and then logged in the Reading Log can count towards challenges and rewards.
My Suggested Reading offers book recommendations (in a bookshelf format) in multiple categories including summer reading, popular series, prize winners, and more. You can watch the introductory trailer, below, for more details.
Introductory YouTube video: https://youtu.be/MXFjsuQJBKI
What I Like about BiblioNasium
BiblioNasium is quick and easy to set up. Only the teacher needs to provide an email address, and you can either create your own passwords for each student or let the site generate them. Groups can be larger than just one classroom (they recommend less than 100 members). The reports function makes it easy to see students' reading logs. It is easy for students to search and recommend books, and the bookshelf-style layout works well to display books and search results. BiblioNasium is also a closed community (unless parents enable adding friends), keeping students secure. You can read several other reviews of BiblioNasium here.
My Wishes for BiblioNasium
I wish there was an easy way to disable the Challenges / Awards component, as this does not match my teaching philosophy. Some teachers have mentioned that older students can be turned off by the bright color palette of the site, feeling that it is babyish.
If students have used Bookopolis in a previous year, there is a merge option available that allows them to import their previous reading history. Bookopolis is also available as an app through Edmodo.
Students can write free-form reviews of books or use the Book Buzz categories (short summary / best part / why you have to read it) to create their review. There is also a "report" option that asks several levels of generic questions about the book. Students can also personally recommend a book to a friend. When students search for a book there is also an option to buy the book (links to Amazon) or to borrow the book (links to WorldCat). Students may also read reviews written by other students within Bookopolis.
There is also a reading log feature that allows students to add books from their "I'm Reading Now" list and record the number of minutes and pages read. They can also add a comment in the text box.
Bookopolis appears to still be under construction for some functions. When I did a search and wrote a review for Kate Messner's Marty McGuire, the grade level and reading level information was missing, and the "Book Extras" and "Discussion" tabs just say "This feature coming soon."
In addition to books, Bookopolis also has a "Fun and Games" tab that connects to a wide-range of word games, puzzles, and adventure games. (When I tested this feature last week, nothing happened when you clicked on the games.)
Introductory YouTube video.
What I Like about Bookopolis
Bookopolis is easy to setup and use, and the site provides quick tutorials for first-time users. You can import students manually or upload a list. There are several different report and analysis options available for teachers. It is easy for students to search for books and write reviews. You can read other reviews of Bookopolis here.
My Wishes for Bookopolis
Some of the features and functionality of Bookopolis are still under construction, and I wish that there were more control available to teachers for which options they wanted to enable. (Personally, if I were going to use Bookopolis, I would prefer to disable the games, disable the points/badges, and disable the generic report questions about each book.)
Goodreads is a popular free site and app for logging and recommending books, and it is one that many teachers (myself included, follow me here) use for their personal book logs. An email address is required to create an account. Because you must be 13 years of age to register for Goodreads, it is not appropriate for younger students. Some teachers ask parents to register for the site or create a classroom, rather than individual, log-in.
Goodreads allows you to rate books you have read, write recommendations, label books that you want to read, and share all of these actions with friends. You can join groups around a given topic or interest. The site also offers suggestions of books you might like based on books you have rated. Goodreads does rely on advertisements, which are generally, but not always, book-related.
Shelfari, run by Amazon, is another free book logging site geared towards adults. An email address linked to an Amazon account is required to sign up. (You must be at least 13 to have your own account. Some teachers use Shelfari for class reading or ask parents to create accounts.) You can also connect other social media accounts, including Facebook and Twitter, to your account.
Shelfari allows you to read, review, and share book recommendations. You can also create and track individual reading goals. You can read reviews of others or see recommended books. The community feature allows you to connect with other readers or other groups based on common interests. Groups can share discussion-forum style posts. Shelfari does not include advertising but does link to Amazon to purchase books.
How Will You Track Your Digital Reading?
Will you use a digital tool this year to help your students track their reading? Do you have experience with one or more of these programs? Please share your thoughts or experiences in the comments below so that we can continue to learn from each other.
Katie is a veteran third grade teacher and blogs at The Logonauts, http://www.thelogonauts.com/ , where she focuses on reading, writing, and social studies resources with an emphasis on diversity and world cultures. She is a life-long reader and enjoys ensnaring others in the web of life-long reading. As a traveler, photographer, and former archaeologist, Katie has visited four continents, numerous countries, and 41 of the 50 US States. She loves introducing her students to the wider world and fostering their excitement about other countries and cultures.
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Cross-posted 8/13 as Digital Reading Logs for Students on Katie's Blog: