Using Goodreads for Book Discussions

Bring a little Web 2.0 into your book discussion groups with Goodreads, a social library community that is very teen-friendly. Started in 2006, Goodreads is a web community where members can recommend and rate books to each other, compare what they are reading, keep track of what they've read and would like to read, form book clubs, answer trivia questions, and keep track of favorite quotes.

Getting Started with Goodreads

Goodreads has a good overview to get you started on your own: the best way to learn how to use this site is sign yourself up, start a profile, and play around with the features. For some great reasons to use Goodreads with your students and screencaps of the sign-up process, visit Lisa Huff's wiki for another educator's point of view. For an example of a Goodreads user in action, view a sample profile (Melissa Ahart, M.S. 88).

Goodreads Features to Explore

Discussion groups: Goodreads has a rich community of discussion groups online already, and your student discussion group can join them publicly or as a private group moderated by you.
Listopia: Goodreads users can create lists of their favorite books, the best books ever, or subject-specific lists around a theme or topic, comparable to the user-generated lists from Amazon. Your students can participate in existing lists by adding your book club titles where appropriate (especially voting for them as the best books ever!) or creating new lists specific to your discussion groups.
Book shelves: When you're new to Goodreads, two bookshelves are created for your automatically: "read" and "to-read." You can add more individualized shelves to your profile, which can organize books by genre, reading challenge, books you loved or loathed, and by discussion group. Your discussion groups can make a specific shelf on their profiles for the discussion titles, and your discussion group can have a book shelf highlighting all the titles for the whole group.
Status updates: A newer feature on Goodreads allows you to track your progress through a specific book by page numbers and take notes along the way. Your students can all log their page numbers as they read the book, making sure that everyone stays together as they read, and take virtual notes in the margin as they read, logging their reactions to specific chapters and passages.
Quotes: Users can list their favorite quotes from the books they're reading, highlight them on their profile, and share them with other readers.
Reading challenges: Participating in a reading challenge has become a popular informal community aspect of Goodreads that may appeal to your more competitive or avid readers. You can challenge yourself to meet any number of personal reading goals; examples of popular challenges include a number of books to read in a year (25, 50, 100, or even 200 books), reading a book from A to Z by author's last names or book titles, reading through an award-winning list of books, or reading everything by a given author. Your discussion groups could spin off into this sort of challenge, like reading five books on a given subject or by a given author or reading a nonfiction book related to each core subject.

Tips for Using Goodreads with Students

  • Make sure that all student profiles are set to private and that any discussion groups you create are also private.
  • Teach kids how to control their information when they become part of an online community. Remind them not to post their full name or address in their profile and to only communicate with other members of the community that they already know (like their teachers and classmates). Discuss what makes an appropriate and inappropriate profile picture.
  • Remind students to always log off their account when they are done, especially if using the site on a public computer. If they remain logged in, another person could tamper with or delete their account.
  • To create a username and password for Goodreads, you need to have an email address already, so build time to set this up into your group meeting if necessary.
  • If you can't set up Goodreads with a class, consider using your own account to feed reading lists and book reviews into a library blog or onto your library home page. Goodreads has its own widgets that you can use for blogs or Facebook.

Privacy on Goodreads

Goodreads gives these instructions to set an individual profile to private: "All the privacy setting on Goodreads are found by clicking 'my account' at the top right of Goodreads. You can select who can view your profile, last name, and email address, and send you messages. If your profile is private, only your friends can see your profile. This includes your profile data, book shelves, profile comments, and your friend list. Your first name and image thumbnail are still available in some areas of site. Your book reviews will also still be available on each book page." For groups: "For restricted, private, and secret groups, only members can view the discussion boards. For public groups the discussion boards are available to all. For all groups if you are a member you can add books to the group shelves or invite other members. Group administrators can remove members, delete discussion posts, or add other moderators."