Saturday, May 10, 2014

Cool and useful website: Goodreads

In a post at the beginning of this school year I mentioned that I have discovered a renewed passion for reading. I'll post later about the results of sharing my passion with students in my school. The purpose of this post is to share the Goodreads website as a way of recording my reading and possibly use it with students in my school.

One of the things I've tried to do the last several years is to record all the books I have read. This was mostly so that I wouldn't accidentally check out the same book. I kept my reading list in an Excel spreadsheet on my laptop. This wasn't always convenient because the spreadsheet was on my computer and not always available when I wanted to add a book I had finished. Or I was at the library browsing shelves and couldn't remember if I had read a particular book. I kept me Want to Read list in my list making app on my iPhone - meaning those two lists were completely separate.

I've seen many people mention Goodreads, and, in fact, used it to get book cover images, summaries, and read reviews. But I didn't bother to create an account. I finally decided to create and account and start exploring so that I could see how to use it in a classroom and compare it with Biblionasium, which I'll review in another post.

Account Creation

Creating an account was extremely easy. I could have used a Facebook, Twitter, Google, or Amazon account, but I chose to create a new account from scratch. It does require an email, which becomes a problem for elementary classroom use as I'll explain later. Once the account was created I could start adding my books.


Goodreads includes three shelves by default: read, currently-reading, and to-read. You can add as many custom themed shelves as you would like by clicking the Edit button next to the My Bookshelves section. For example, I read chapter books to my children at night, so I created a shelf named read-to-kids. I also read a lot of picture books to them, so I also made a shelf named picture-books-read. I came across a Twitter conversation about the power in wordless picture books and somehow managed to generate a lost of 20+ wordless picture books that I've started to read to them.

Recording Books

It's extremely easy to add books to any bookshelf. You can search for the book title, click the books icon next to Want to Read, and choose the shelf you want. The green Want to Read icon appears next to any book title at any time, making it very convenient if I'm exploring suggested titles or looking at what others are reading.

I widget appears on my main page listing the books on my Currently Reading list. From there I can update my progress with that book or mark it as read. Selecting the list for all of my books also shows a column where I can easily change books from one shelf to another.


There is also an iPad/iPhone app with complete functionality. You can add books to your shelves, scan barcodes, make reviews, get recommendations, etc. There are even widgets that can be added to your blog or website so you can show off your reading lists and goals.

Problems with using in classroom

This website has a few problems that might make it difficult to use in an elementary classroom. Sites like this have a 13 year old age restriction. Requiring an email address at account creation is one way of verifying this. In my district students can have district provided email addresses, so they could use that to create their account. A Google for Education might also have email addresses available for student use. This is also a very open site - and there is nothing to prevent students from exploring other areas. Reviews are not moderated and can contain inappropriate language. There is danger from any social media site.

Create a Class group

One way to get around these problems is to create a private group for your class. That group can then be used to host book discussions, share recommendations, and explore different titles. Searching Google or even the Goodreads groups can show you many classrooms, even elementary ones, that successfully use groups. Regardless of what you do, make sure you get parent/guardian permission for your students.

My Goals

My goal with this site is to use it 100% for tracking my reading lists. To do that I will need to transfer all my "have read" and "want to read" lists from my current spreadsheets and apps. I've already got the apps on my iPad and iPhone so now it will be very easy to add my books to my various shelves. I've added my currently-reading shelf to my blog so I can share what I'm reading. I need to figure out a reading goal for this year and set that as well.

Do you have a suggestion for another website that can be used to track and share reading, especially for elementary students? How do you use Goodreads in your classroom?

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