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Review by Polly Conway, Common Sense Education | Updated April 2013

Shelfari

Online book nook for teen readers to explore

Common Sense says
Teachers say (3 Reviews)
$avg_user_learning_rating
Grades
8-12 This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
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Pros: Shelfari is versatile and gives users a lot of freedom to share opinions and information.

Cons: User-created content may not always be accurate or top-quality.

Bottom Line: Though not as comprehensive as some of its competitors, Shelfari is a comfortable place for teens to share and make connections with the books they love.

Teachers can use Shelfari as an at-home supplement to in-class readings and assignments. You can easily create groups for each class and facilitate discussions or let students take the lead and ask each other questions about the day's reading. An extra-credit assignment could have students pick their favorite book quotes and post them on Shelfari; you also could create a contest to see which student can reach her reading goals the fastest. Shelfari lets you track your students' progress, and with "My Reading Stats," kids can see pie charts showing how many pages they've read within the year or semester. Shelfari even graphs books read by genre. Overall, it has a variety of cool resources you can use to keep kids engaged (and reading!).

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Editor's Note: Shelfari has merged with Goodreads.

Shelfari is a website for book lovers that allows users to create a virtual bookshelf, write reviews, and participate in discussion groups. Teens can read the entire first chapter of any book featured on Shelfari for free, using Kindle for the Web. It's also a little like Wikipedia in that any user can edit public content about a book's background, characters, and plot. Want to add a character description of Jay Gatsby, or don't like the one that's there? Shelfari makes it simple to add or change information by clicking "edit." You can also join book discussion groups, read full chapters of future contenders, and, on the social-media end, follow and share updates with friends.

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Shelfari is a smaller, more intimate community than the sometimes-overwhelming Goodreads. The ads are subtle and unobtrusive, and though the design isn't that exciting, it's simple and easy to navigate. Shelfari also has some neat little touches that set it apart from the rest. For example, while reading the reviews of The Three Musketeers, you can click the "Hide all spoilers" box to extricate any ruined endings from your future. The free first chapter is a huge bonus for kids who may be on the fence about buying a book.
 

What's most powerful is that teens get to see their own book reviews posted on the Internet and witness how their opinions can affect another person's reading choices. They get to be critics -- that's fun! After perusing an Amazon-provided preview, they also get to decide whether a book is worth reading next. With the chance not only to create their own content but also to edit what's already there, kids can participate deeply in Shelfari's reviews.

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Overall Rating
3

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?
3

Kids will love the freedom of editing content and filling in sections like "Themes and Symbolism" to "First Sentence."

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?
3

 

Kids collaborate with other users to make up the content available on Shelfari; they review what previous writers have written and decide if any changes should be made.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?
4

Shelfari is very easy to use, with simple instruction on how to set up an account and maximize the site's offerings. There isn't a huge amount of guidance available, but it doesn't seem necessary as the site is very intuitive.


Common Sense Reviewer
Polly Conway Classroom teacher

Teacher Reviews

2
(See all 3 reviews) (3 reviews)
Featured review by
Kellie A. , Technology coordinator
Technology coordinator
3
Engaging site for students to review and discuss books

If having online discussions is an important part of a teaching practice, this is a good tool. It can give students a chance to write critically, read what a review looks like, and learn about the pros and cons to user-generated and user-edited content. I liked the ease of setting up the group and the options for members, although having to email invitations could be a downside for those schools/districts where students aren't given an email address (this would also be problematic for account set-up). It would be nice if you could also invite students to a group via code or group key. Because it's browser-based, that opens up some opportunities for access from anywhere, along with read-aloud supports if using Chrome.

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