Most of us remember the first book we fell in love with, the first story to take us on a journey out of our world and into someone else’s.

I’ve taught English for many years now, and it seems that as the years pass, less of my students are reading outside of their courses. Almost none of my current juniors and seniors are reading for pleasure. They might read to learn information or because they have to, but nowadays students turn to films, games, the internet, and television for their escape.

A few years ago, I began assigning a project to my juniors. The basics: choose an American book, read it with a partner, discuss it, and present it to your classmates, enticing them to want to read it. Sounds like an old-fashioned book report, right? So it is. The conundrum for most of my reluctant readers was in book choice. What to read? Who to read? The easy thing for me to do was to simply tell them about a few books and give them a list of choices.

Last year, I discovered that was another excellent way for students to explore, discover, and select books that interest them.

I still remember walking up and down the long musty-smelling rows of books at my school library and basing my choice on cover art. Man, how things have changed. Now, you only need to hop online to surf new book releases. In fact, many new books have their own preview video! This is a new age—a digital one.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s still okay to talk to students about books, but like the saying goes- show don’t tell. The greater impact comes in showing them. Enter, Now, this website isn’t new; in fact, many of you may have been using it for years. However, I’ve discovered a few interesting facts about the site, and one amazing way to utilize it in the classroom, particularly for English and History.


1. is free!

2. It has over seven million subscribers; this means that there are millions of book reviews to help students choose the right material.

3. It allows teachers to model independent reading!

4. Teachers can follow their students and can get emails daily or weekly with updates from their students regarding books rated or marked to-read, read, reading.

5. Teachers can create “groups” and set those groups to public, private, restricted, or even secret.

6. Teachers can begin discussions in their “Group,” to which students can reply.

7. Teachers can use the site as a way for students to evaluate course reading selections.


1. Goodreads is an asynchronous environment where students can discuss or read about literature on their own time, at their own pace, and in any location.

2. Students can create anonymous profiles.

3. Students learn to write for a specific audience.

4. It allows users to select books to add to their bookshelf; to choose “read, reading, or to-read” statuses for books; to set goals for the year and to track their progress; to write reviews for any book; to follow favorite authors who are also members on the site; and to even self-publish their own work.

5. Students are able to read about a book before starting it.

Book reports, or as I sneakily call them “novel workshops,” still have value, as does reading for pleasure, and using a social networking site such as Goodreads makes the selection process less painful and the reading more enjoyable!