Digital Book World has a great write-up about Biblionasium, a site I have not heard about until now which describes itself as a ‘Goodreads for Kids.’ They previously got around the whole ‘social media websites and children under 13’ privacy issues by limiting their young user’s review-writing options to selecting pre-fab options from a drop-down menu. But in response to requests from teachers and librarians, they have now opened up true review-writing abilities for users of all ages.
The write-up points out that the site does restrict these posting abilities so that parents and educators can pre-determine where this stuff gets shared. But it also remarks that kids really do listen to feedback from other kids when selecting their reading materials. Anecdotally, I can attest to this. One of the Grade 2 classrooms in my school has a bulletin board where students can post recommendations for other kids in the class. They have to list the name of the person they recommend it for, title of the book, the author and a reason why they are suggesting it. Some of the comments are surprisingly thoughtful. A sampling:
‘ Because you liked ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid’ and this book is sort of like that one.’
‘ Because you like fairies and this book has fairies in it.’
‘ You liked another book this author wrote so you might like this one too.’
‘ This book has pictures about dinosaurs, but also information about lots of dinosaurs.’
It was touchingly sweet; the kids were not merely suggesting books they liked, they were thinking about their friend’s personalities and interests, and really evaluating why that friend might like a particular title.
So, what about the privacy issue? To me, that is a non-starter. I think part of our role as technology educators is to teach them how to use social media responsibly; it’s there, and it’s futile to pretend it’s not. If we want to raise future adults who don’t bully authors on Facebook or post compromising photographs of their friends on Facebook, we have to start somewhere. A site like this, which offers structured and monitored options, is a good way to introduce children to posting online—and to develop a love of reading and some writing and literacy skills to boot. Bring it on, I say!