Local students discover books on new website

Fostering a love for reading

MONT VERNON – Anne Detwiler believes it’s her mission to foster the love of reading in young stu­dents so they become life­long readers and curious learners.

An innovative website that has created an online community of young read­ers is helping Detwiler, the library media special­ist at Mont Vernon Village School, do just that.

Detwiler has been in­troducing the school’s old­er students to Bookopolis, a colorful, kid-friendly website where students can discover new books, create a virtual bookshelf of books they’ve read and want to read, write book reviews and read reviews from classmates.

"My goal is for them to see the joy of reading and to discover new books they’ve never seen be­fore," said Detwiler, who introduced Bookopolis to

third- and fourth-graders last year as a pilot pro­gram.

During a recent morn­ing, in a room adjacent to the school library known as the lab, Detwiler taught a group of fourth-graders, each with a laptop in front of them, how to create their online account and navigate the website. She told them about its inter­esting features.

Each student had been given a slip of paper with their user name and an easy-to-remember pass­word written on it.

In one section of the site, which Detwiler showed on a large screen for all the students to see, the youngsters selected the types of books they’re interested in when they created their profile.

"I’d like you to choose all the genres you love," she told them.

Bookopolis was founded by a California mom, Kari Riedel, who launched it after realizing her young sons were more likely to read books recommended by their friends than by her.

According to Detwiler, a recommendation from a friend is a "huge" factor in helping a child decide what books to read.

Bookopolis, Detwiler said, includes titles of thousands of books and is free for students to use, and they can continue to use it after they leave the school. The website complies with the re­quirements of the federal Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule.

"It’s a pretty massive in­ventory," she said.

Other educators see value in it, too. Accord­ing to Bookopolis, the website supports teach­ers’ reading and writing goals, and they can use to it track reading logs of students and monitor their work.

Reading done for fun, according to Bookopo­lis, increases test scores, improves spelling, in­creases empathy and emotional IQ, and opens a "window" to another view of the world.

Riedel, a book lover and the "mayor" of Bookopo­lis, wants kids to "buzz" about books, like they "buzz" about sports teams, video games and pop stars.

"It seems to me that the student who is an avid reader will more likely be on Bookopolis, will be more interested in finding out their next book," said Detwiler, who learned about the online commu­nity when she worked at a school in California. "The student that might not like to read might not go on it as much."

Several of the fourth-graders who Detwiler re­cently met with, students in teacher Kim Tighe’s classroom, said they liked the website. In ad­dition to discovering new books and recommending their favorite ones, they can create their own ava­tar and earn points and badges.

"I’m going to use it at home," 9-year-old Spen­cer Hagey said.

"I like how it’s easy to use and you can go on it anytime," added Jared Kershaw, 10.

This year, the school is educating 178 students, ranging from kinder­garten through grade 6. Detwiler teaches each grade once a week, alter­nating between teaching library/information liter­acy skills and technology skills.

After finding books on Bookopolis they want to read, students can search for titles using the school’s online library catalog. They can also search the online library catalog of Wilkins School in Amherst, and Detwiler can obtain books for them through an interlibrary loan.

The online library of Daland Memorial Library can also be searched, and Detwiler encourages stu­dents to check out books there, too.

"Even for kids who are struggling, are not sure what to read, it’s a great way for them to become better readers because they can find out about books they never knew (about)," Detwiler said of Bookopolis. "If their best friend is reading some­thing, they might read it because their best friend is interested in it."