Education Opinion

Reading Rabbit Holes

By Donalyn Miller — December 31, 2008 3 min read
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With the holiday break winding down (we have to report back to school on Friday for staff development), I am in work-avoidance mode. Instead of taking down my Christmas decorations, lesson planning or writing, I decided to clean out the bookmarks in my computer under the guise of doing something productive. After two hours, I realized that I had fallen into the rabbit hole, the colorful, magical, random world that so often sucks me into the Internet. I have some gems in the rabbit hole—Websites that make my eyes glaze over with reading bliss, and surprisingly, enhance my classroom instruction and my conversations with students about books.

Here are my top five reading rabbit holes (ranked in order of the number of hours I spend on them). Be careful, you might fall in!

Take some time off from updating your Facebook page and wander over to goodreads, a social networking site for readers. Create virtual bookshelves of the books you have read, want to read, and are currently reading. My shelves hold a staggering 1,110 books now with my goal to list every book I have read over my lifetime. Spend hours writing reviews, taking the never-ending book quiz, or surfing the lists and reviews of other readers. You can set your bookshelves to private and use this site with students as a forum for book discussions or simply celebrate the books you read.

Spend one year reading the postings at Jen Robinson’s Book Page and take a university course in the latest children’s literature. Jen regularly links to the hottest news and best sites in the kid lit blogosphere and I skim her book reviews often for fresh reading fodder. Jen sits on the review board for the Cybils Awards, the children’s and young adult bloggers’ literary awards, a list of sure-fire hits for the past few years. I could have built this post by pirating all of Jen’s links, but shouldn’t you go to the source?

Don’t despair that teenagers don’t read much, check out Teenreads, the Holy Grail of book review sites for teens, and have your faith restored. Designed with teenagers in mind, this busy site has podcasts, polls, contests, monthly reviews, authors’ interviews and tons of other features. Don’t miss the Ultimate Teen Reading List with over 300 book recommendations for teens by teens. The Children’s Book Council picked Teenreads as the nomination site for this year’s Children’s Choice Book Awards—a nod to the influence of this site and its readers.

I discovered Wordle last spring, while avoiding revising my book (apologies to my editor), and have seen it since in education publications. Users create word “clouds” by typing in text to generate a picture. Words that appear frequently in the text appear larger than others—a cool way to summarize key points or illustrate repetition. Tweak the fonts, colors and backgrounds using the site’s editing tools and design killer-word collages of your favorite quotes or book passages. My students wrote poems and made Wordle collages from them. I created this word cloud about my teaching life.

John Green, author of the brilliant, hilarious, and irreverent books Looking for Alaska, An Abundance of Katherines, and Paper Towns, is one of my favorite YA authors to read (his books are a bit mature for my sixth graders). John’s homepage, Sparksflyup, is the best author rabbit hole on the Web with regular vodcasts, blog postings, and John’s commentary on all things reading and writing. Read the transcript of his recent ALAN Conference Speech and discover the awesomeness of John.

Now that I have exposed my secret browsing life—it’s your turn. Share your reading rabbit holes with the rest of us. Are there sites you use for book reviews? Do you read any authors’ blogs? I have a few open spots for new bookmarks waiting… And yes, I am reading during my vacation with my annual book-a-day challenge. More about that in a future post, I still have a few days left!

Happy New Year! Think about all of those unread books stretching across the year before us...

The opinions expressed in The Book Whisperer are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.