Now that we are fully entrenched in the lazy days of summer, my kids have finished their school's required summer reading and are trying to choose what to read next. For some reason, when we head to the library and I make a suggestion, it's met with a shrug of the shoulders and an unenthusiastic "maybe". But when a friend of theirs mentions a great new book they're reading, I am instantly bombarded with requests to hit the library or Kepler's bookstore.
Such is the power of peer recommendations, Kari Riedel has discovered, and one of the drivers behind her creation of Bookopolis. Named after the fictional Digitolopolis in The Phantom Tollbooth, Bookopolis is a free, safe (parents help set and can monitor kids accounts) and fun online community where kids can:
• Record their reading (minutes read each day) and participate in a summer reading challenge (complete with a chance to win a Cheeky Monkey or Amazon gift card)
• Write a book review and share their own opinions on books with their friends
• Check out what other kids are reading and read their reviews
• Explore new books (there are "sneak peeks" to dive into)
• Create their own "bookshelf" complete with an avatar of their choosing, and
• Earn badges as they complete reading milestones. (As a personal aside, my kids are all about earning "badges". I don't know who invented the online world of badges as used by Khan Academy, Raz-Kids, ABC Mouse, etc., but it is pure genius. For those of you new to the concept of a colorful icon representing a milestone, they are online GOLD to kids.)
Riedel, a Menlo Park resident and mother to a 4th and 1st grader, had a similar experience to mine every time she and her kids hit the children's section of the library looking for books. The concept of creating an online community to foster a love of reading (and create a fun, positive environment where they could engage with other kids their age) came to her after watching her sons' fascination with the online game, Minecraft. Working with her brother-in-law and husband (and of course her sons!), Bookopolis was born.
"I'm probably one of the last people my kids thought would start a website because I really limit how much screen time they have," she explains. "But this is about creating a culture of reading by simply making a fun and engaging community that kids can be proud of whatand how muchthey've read!"
The site also offers an optional reading comprehension quiz for books. Riedel is working with teachers who are interested in using that aspect of the site as part of their curriculum. She and her team are also reaching out to literacy groups who are able to use the free site as a fun, encouraging, and motivating tool with their learners. "It's all about making reading fun vs. drudgery", she says. "It's all about just getting kids to pick up that book".
To check venture into Bookopolis, go to: bookopolis.com