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Reading Rabbit Holes


With the holiday break winding down (we have to report back to school on Friday for staff development), I am in work-avoidance mode. Instead of taking down my Christmas decorations, lesson planning or writing, I decided to clean out the bookmarks in my computer under the guise of doing something productive. After two hours, I realized that I had fallen into the rabbit hole, the colorful, magical, random world that so often sucks me into the Internet. I have some gems in the rabbit hole—Websites that make my eyes glaze over with reading bliss, and surprisingly, enhance my classroom instruction and my conversations with students about books.

Here are my top five reading rabbit holes (ranked in order of the number of hours I spend on them). Be careful, you might fall in!

Take some time off from updating your Facebook page and wander over to goodreads, a social networking site for readers. Create virtual bookshelves of the books you have read, want to read, and are currently reading. My shelves hold a staggering 1,110 books now with my goal to list every book I have read over my lifetime. Spend hours writing reviews, taking the never-ending book quiz, or surfing the lists and reviews of other readers. You can set your bookshelves to private and use this site with students as a forum for book discussions or simply celebrate the books you read.

Spend one year reading the postings at Jen Robinson’s Book Page and take a university course in the latest children’s literature. Jen regularly links to the hottest news and best sites in the kid lit blogosphere and I skim her book reviews often for fresh reading fodder. Jen sits on the review board for the Cybils Awards, the children's and young adult bloggers' literary awards, a list of sure-fire hits for the past few years. I could have built this post by pirating all of Jen’s links, but shouldn’t you go to the source?

Don’t despair that teenagers don’t read much, check out Teenreads, the Holy Grail of book review sites for teens, and have your faith restored. Designed with teenagers in mind, this busy site has podcasts, polls, contests, monthly reviews, authors’ interviews and tons of other features. Don’t miss the Ultimate Teen Reading List with over 300 book recommendations for teens by teens. The Children’s Book Council picked Teenreads as the nomination site for this year’s Children’s Choice Book Awards—a nod to the influence of this site and its readers.

I discovered Wordle last spring, while avoiding revising my book (apologies to my editor), and have seen it since in education publications. Users create word “clouds” by typing in text to generate a picture. Words that appear frequently in the text appear larger than others—a cool way to summarize key points or illustrate repetition. Tweak the fonts, colors and backgrounds using the site’s editing tools and design killer-word collages of your favorite quotes or book passages. My students wrote poems and made Wordle collages from them. I created this word cloud about my teaching life.

John Green, author of the brilliant, hilarious, and irreverent books Looking for Alaska, An Abundance of Katherines, and Paper Towns, is one of my favorite YA authors to read (his books are a bit mature for my sixth graders). John’s homepage, Sparksflyup, is the best author rabbit hole on the Web with regular vodcasts, blog postings, and John’s commentary on all things reading and writing. Read the transcript of his recent ALAN Conference Speech and discover the awesomeness of John.

Now that I have exposed my secret browsing life—it’s your turn. Share your reading rabbit holes with the rest of us. Are there sites you use for book reviews? Do you read any authors' blogs? I have a few open spots for new bookmarks waiting… And yes, I am reading during my vacation with my annual book-a-day challenge. More about that in a future post, I still have a few days left!

Happy New Year! Think about all of those unread books stretching across the year before us...


Thanks so much for this tremendous compliment, Donalyn. What I have to say in return is that I read a LOT of blogs, but I find that I flag nearly all of your posts to be featured in my roundups, because you always have something interesting to say. Thanks so much for brightening my New Year's Eve. I'm happy to be back to blogging after a bit of a Christmas break.

Happy New Year!!

Uh-oh. One of my New Year's Resolutions is to diligently stick to my DAB (Daily Allotted Blogtime). A few of these sites just made that a little tougher. Jen Robinson's site is terrific, with many great links that make me want to jump off the surf board and do a little swimming. It's only Jan. 4, and I'm already in trouble!

Hi, Ms. Miller,

I was wondering if you're familiar with the Great Books Foundation? They just launched a new professional development website, www.GreatTeachersGreatResults.org, where the focus is on using rich, text centered discussions that challenge students to stretch their thinking and allow teachers to enhance their skills when using this dynamic questioning process. Best of all, the method is useful far beyond the bounds of the English or Language Arts classroom!
Considering your book whispering background, I'd love to hear your opinion of this professional development program, and I'd be happy to get you any other information that you might desire.

Happy reading!

Ms. Miller,
I followed your link to Wordles and instantly thought of many ways to use it with my fifth graders.....until I discovered that the Wordles website is inappropriate for use by children. The creator of Wordles promises a kid-friendly site someday. How did you use it with your students? I'd love to use word clouds as a book report assignment with specific guidelines...title in larger font, characters or new vocabulary each in their own color, etc.

Hi Carol,

The main issue with Wordle is the gallery feature where students could read the word clouds posted by adults who may use words or content that is innapropriate. My district has now blocked Wordle from our school computers for the same reason, although I never had a problem with it (honestly, none).

If you would like a site that does not have a gallery feature, but still allows you to create word clouds, you could check out:


The editing features are not as cool as Wordle (in my opinion), but students can still create a word cloud from their own text.

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Recent Comments

  • Donalyn Miller: Hi Carol, The main issue with Wordle is the gallery read more
  • Carol Clark: Ms. Miller, I followed your link to Wordles and instantly read more
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  • Under the Covers: Uh-oh. One of my New Year's Resolutions is to diligently read more
  • Jen Robinson: Thanks so much for this tremendous compliment, Donalyn. What I read more



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