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Book Adventure:
Online Reading Program
Rewards Young Bookworms

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An online reading incentive program is promoting reading for pleasure among students in a new way. Book Adventure has students selecting books they want to read based on their interests, reading the books, and wanting to take quizzes that measure their comprehension. Too good to be true? Not so! Immediate rewards and interactive games are just the enticement kids need to get them reading, and this program is putting them to work through the Internet.

The creation of an online reading program brought together an unusual combination of companies in a fight against a national problem -- illiteracy. The program, called Book Adventure, has attracted tens of thousands of users.

Book Adventure is supported by many educational partners, including Reading Is Fundamental, and is sponsored by Sylvan Learning Centers, Sylvan Learning Foundation, BarnesandNoble.com, R.R. Bowker Company, Houghton Mifflin, and Lycos, Inc.

What about Book Adventure has students excited about reading? The Web site combines the interactive, immediate nature of the Internet, the resources of the public or school library, and the reward system. Two colorful characters -- Bailey Bookmark, an adorable dog, and Rex Reader, a lovable dinosaur -- guide students on their explorations of the site. Both characters encourage students to join in their reading adventure!

Students access the Book Adventure Web site from home, at school, or in the library and use it to create lists of books they want to read based on their own preferences. They take those lists to their school, public, or home library (or other book source), and they read the selections. When they have finished, the students go back online to the Web site and take quizzes that test their knowledge of the material. If they do well, they may earn incentives. Some of those prizes, such as interactive games and printable bookmarks, can be downloaded to the computer.

Book Adventure is so unique because not only is it online, not only does it offer students free rewards for reading, but it also can be a tool for parents as well as teachers! Parents may visit the library to access the Web site or reach it through their home computers to allow their children to make reading lists, take comprehension tests, and earn rewards. The site is a powerful weapon in the fight against illiteracy, and it is put directly in the hands of parents through the Internet.

'ADVENTURE' IN THE LIBRARY

The librarian is another individual who may help students access Book Adventure and use its many capabilities. Maria Salvadore is the coordinator of children's services for the Washington (D.C.) Public Library System, and she has seen the program in action in the children's rooms of the system's libraries.

"Book Adventure was used at the 22 full-service libraries in the D.C. Public Library System as a part of the summer reading programs," Salvadore told Education World. "The programs serve hundreds of children in the D.C. area. Book Adventure served as a motivational tool to encourage reading for pleasure. Children developed their own bibliographies, or book lists, printed them, and went to the shelves to find the books. Their choices reflected their interests."

Salvadore believes that the implementation of Book Adventure in libraries is an ideal arrangement. "Unlike the home setting, in the library the program offers immediate gratification," she said. "Students get their book lists and can go right to the shelves to obtain the books. It is a different use of the library's resources."

She recalls watching students waiting excitedly for their lists to print and eagerly answering questions when they completed their books. They were particularly excited by the printable prizes -- an instantaneous reward!

"One of the best features of Book Adventure is how it allows parents to be involved in their child's reading experiences," Salvadore said. "They can go online with their children to help them select books and help them find the selections on the shelves. Then the books go home with the families to be read. The program is unique in that it flows from online, to offline, to online again. Students create their book lists, find the books and read them, and then go back to the computer to take related quizzes.

In addition to providing students with the opportunity and resources to use the online program, the libraries also distributed Book Adventure packets to the schools. Those packets were a means for teachers to encourage parents and children to take advantage of the resources of their local libraries.

According to Salvadore, Book Adventure's use in the library helps bridge the "digital divide" for students who do not have home computers, and it enhances the reading experience. She looks forward to working more with the program in the future.

USING THE INTERNET TO INCREASE LITERACY?

No one knows the possibilities and benefits of Book Adventure better than its director, Brent McCallister. She feels that the most unique aspect of the program is that it brings together new technology and the use of the Internet with reading.

"The combination of technology and reading in an incentive program is one that can appeal to and benefit a large number of students," said McCallister. "For those students who already love to read and use technology, Book Adventure is a program that recognizes their achievements. For those students who are more interested in technology and computer games than reading, Book Adventure is a kind of reading game that ties technology to reading, making reading and taking quizzes something fun to do during school or after school instead of Nintendo. And for those students who love to read, but have not had very much exposure to technology, Book Adventure is a fun, safe, and productive introduction to the Internet and technology."

The success of an online program designed to encourage offline reading could be viewed as ironic. Many educators have expressed worry in the past about the Internet's possible negative effect on literacy, but Book Adventure appears to have exploited the best qualities of it for a valuable purpose -- to encourage children not just to read, but to read for pleasure!

"In the past few years, there has been a lot of concern that computers and technology will push children away from books and reading. But in Book Adventure, we have sought to create a program that is appropriate for and will captivate the interest of the technology-savvy students of today -- a program that will generate a technology-based interest and enthusiasm for reading that will keep kids reading even as technology, computers, and the Internet continue to play an increasingly significant role in our lives," McCallister stated.

What are kids reading with the help of Book Adventure? The preferences of young readers are recorded by the program, and it generates a list of the most popular selections.

BOOK ADVENTURE'S TOP 10 KID PICKS

  1. Charlotte's Web, by E. B. White
  2. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, by Roald Dahl
  3. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, by Judith Viorst
  4. Arthur Babysits, by Marc T. Brown
  5. Arthur's Chickenpox, by Marc T. Brown
  6. Matilda, by Roald Dahl
  7. Clifford the Big Red Dog, by Norman Bridwell
  8. Arthur's Teacher Trouble, by Marc T. Brown
  9. Arthur Meets the President, by Marc T. Brown
  10. James and the Giant Peach, by Roald Dahl

BIG PLANS FOR BOOK ADVENTURE

Book Adventure is a growing resource with many exciting events on the horizon. McCallister encourages teachers and parents to watch the site as some new incentives appear, particularly in the coming year.

"Right now we are in the middle of our first Book Bonanza, which is a two-month, merit-based contest designed to recognize those students who are getting a perfect score on the most books," she said. "We hope to launch another contest with similar larger scale prizes at the beginning of 2000. Throughout the course of 2000, we also hope to partner with a number of organizations to create national events centered around Book Adventure, because we feel that Book Adventure has the potential to serve as the foundation of a national level literacy program."

Book Adventure was designed to be used in many situations. "If a school or organization already has a reading incentive program and needs an accountability piece that demonstrates that students are reading their books, then Book Adventure can be a component of that program," said McCallister. "If a school or library wants to create an incentive program, Book Adventure can stand alone as that program. If a school already has a similar program, then Book Adventure can be used as a supplement to that program or as something to encourage parents to do with their students at home. Book Adventure is a program that can be used by students at home or at school, so it can benefit students as well as both parents and teachers."

Schools and teachers will appreciate the practical applications offered by a computerized, linked reading program. Through the Web site, supervisors can monitor the number of books the children are reading and how well they are doing on the associated quizzes. Book Adventure can serve as an up-to-date indication of the literacy of a class of students, an individual child, or a student body.

"Not only is the program a unique combination of technology and reading, but it is also able to track the number of books students are reading and quizzing on, as well as the average scores of those quizzes," McCallister explained. "Along with the incentives that exist on the site, this is another unique feature of the Book Adventure program, and one we hope will benefit schools, libraries, parents, teachers, students and literacy organizations across the country."

Students and teachers are enrolling in the Book Adventure program every day via the program's Web site. To obtain a free Book Adventure Starter Kit, call (877) FOR-KITS. The starter kit includes instructions, an activity guide, a book list, posters for the classroom, and a chart to hang on the wall.

McCallister is pleased to be a part of this beneficial reading program. "It is so rewarding to be able to inform a parent or teacher about this wonderful free resource and see or hear his or her reaction when he or she looks at the site and sees what a tremendous resource is being offered for free," she said. "It is also a great experience being able to harness the power and reach of the Internet for such a great cause. In light of the boom in e-commerce sites, it is really wonderful to exploit the potential of the Internet not as a for-profit company, but as a nonprofit program providing a reading program that can be accessed by any student, parent, or teacher in the world."

CHECK OUT BOOK ADVENTURE'S PARTNERS

Reading is Fundamental (RIF)
This organization promotes literacy, especially among the country's neediest children from birth to 11 years of age. It provides programs, volunteers, and books to encourage children to read.

International Reading Association
Made up of teachers, reading specialists, and others, this association holds conferences, is involved in research, and distributes publications on reading and related topics. Its goal is to build high levels of literacy through improvements in reading instruction.

National Association of Elementary School Principals
An organization of principals, the NAESP is dedicated to providing the best education to every elementary and middle school child. It designs programs that help principals succeed in their roles.

National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA)
The NCEA is an organization devoted to the service of Catholic education. It is "is the largest private, professional education association in the world."

National Center for Family Literacy (NCFL)
Focusing on family literacy, this organization assists in the creation of policies, promotes development of literacy programs, supports research, provides training, and encourages the exchange of information about this important subject.

National Alliance of Black School Educators (NABSE)
The largest network of African American educators, the NABSE promotes and facilitates the education of all students, serves as a coalition for African American educators, and operates as a forum for the exchange of ideas to improve the opportunities of people of African descent.

Baltimore Reads
The mission of this organization is to improve the quality of life for educationally disadvantaged children and adults. It emphasizes reading, basic skills, and life skills.

Article by Cara Bafile
Education World®
Copyright © 2007 Education World

Last updated 11/19/2007