The Net effect

4th September 1998 at 01:00
Once you start to explore the Internet for information about children's books and aids to teaching reading, leads proliferate. Many sites offer links to research, catalogues, authors' websites, archives and professional guides. There is a daunting and delightful quantity of useful material.

Many leading publishers have sites, which, at the very least, list titles and offer the chance to purchase direct (which you can also do online through Amazon.com or Bookpages). Some are more than mere catalogues, notably http:www.heinemann.co.uk, which offers help for teachers (who register, but do not have to pay), for parents, and for pupils. Not all the advice is very sophisticated - parents are told, for instance, that they should read to children at a time that doesn't clash with a favourite television programme - but there are tips for dealing with dyslexia, worksheets to download for use with children in libraries, free pages from revision texts, an account of how a book is made, and the chance to send in reviews, contact authors, and apply for author visits to schools (with the authors' reports on their previous school visits).

Random House (http:www.random.house.co.uk.) offers essays on using its books in the classroom, free first chapters, interviews with authors and links with their websites. Bloomsbury's elegant site, http:bloomsbury.com (with a children's books section to click on) contains the usual catalogue information and details of forthcoming events, but also offers useful links, notably with http:okukbooks.com which stands out for its clarity and sense of fun, and offers reviews by children of a wide range of titles. Schools are invited to join in the reviewing, and receive up to #163;100 worth of books for the price of #163;8.50 postage. The site, which is produced independently but in collaboration with a range of children's publishers, makes its own selection of favourites and offers activity sheets to download. The only snag: the reviews by children are not necessarily entirely literate or full of insights.

An American author of professional books for teachers and librarians has an impressive and extensive site, http:www.carolhurst.com containing reviews of books starred for merit and arranged by title, author and grade level (you have to know the American education system to identify intended readers). You can find books listed by subject or theme, too - farm animals, say, or bullying - and read suggestions for discussions that might arise out of the books. There are professional articles, the chance for feedback and a free newsletter.

For an octopus of a site, withtentacles leading everywhere, try http:wwww.ucalgary.cadkbrownindex. It offers Internet discussion groups about children's books, teaching ideas, and links for parents and children. It has connections to a "gopher" site from the New Mexican state university library, gopherlib.nmsu.edu, containing directories of bibliographies, author information, and guides to children's books centres and collections, and askEric, the international children's literature database.

The site for the Norfolk Children's Book Centre (http:www.argonet.co.ukeducationncbc) is principally of local use, offering schools in East Anglia the chance to arrange talks for teachers, storytelling sessions, and visits from an expert to advise about stocking a library.

And at the other end of the scale, the vast US-based Yahooligans site for youngsters (http:yahooligans.comArt_SoupLanguage_ArtsBooks) offers previews, features, stories to read online, and book-related games and puzzles. It allows computer fanatics to be reading on screen, and could be a rich source of classroom material to print out.

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