Using Goodreads to Create a Community of Readers

21 Sep

At the Google Apps for Education Summit last summer, Megan Ellis talked about how she uses Goodreads to create a community of readers and to help her keep track of what her students are reading and writing about.  I thought it was a fantastic idea, so I wanted to try it.

I started a goodreads account myself this summer, and the amount of reading I’ve done has skyrocketed.  I always get books based on recommendations by others.  When I was growing up, my dad filled the loft above my parent’s bedroom with rows and rows of books.  For 18 years, as soon as I said, “do you have a book for me to read?” he would come down with one, or two, or three recommendations.

Now I get recommendations from the rest of my family and friends, and I realize that I virtually never pick up a book that someone hasn’t told me about first.  It’s hard to choose a title from the thousands available without some guidance!  But a lot of the time, that’s what we ask students to do.  “Go the library and pick something interesting.”  No wonder some of them struggle.

Megan sent me instructions for how she sets up her class (thanks Megan!) so I was ready to go.  Goodreads lets you create private groups, so we now have a 4th grade reading group going.  Students can put book reviews on the home page, recommend books to each other, and comment on each other’s reviews.  A few books immediately jumped out as popular (The Lightening Thief, Origami Yoda) and as students wrote and read reviews, they also started organizing lists of who would read which would book in what order.  I think we have a 5-student waiting list for The Tale of Desperaux now.

I asked students to write a review with a 1-2 sentence summary, because in Goodreads you can click on the title of the book and get the publisher’s summary (so we another lengthy one isn’t necessary.)  Most of their review should be spent talking about what kind of reader would like the book, giving specific examples, and maybe recommending additional books that reader would like.  Some great reviews went up:

jkt_9780545334792.inddThis book is about a girl named Minty that finds a boy named Ramon living in a model house that was never finished. They have to figure out the secrets that were found in a tree to get Minty’s friend Paz to be friends with her again.This book is for people who like mysteries, action, and guessing what will come next. This book is so good, it’s hard to put down. Join Minty and Ramon on their adventure to get Paz to be friends with Minty again.



This book is about 4 kids climbing Mt. Everest.

You’ll like this book if you like cliff hanging moments.
While some are doing the climb, one is trying to get the others.
If you like this series, you’ll like Titanic.



It is one of the best books I have ever read!!! I absolutly loved it!!!

I love the part when Despereaux’s father thinks he is a ghost!!! If you enjoyed it then you will love Because Of Winn-Dixie, also by Kate Di Camillo!!!


These aren’t book reviews in the traditional sense.  The goal isn’t to gauge students’ comprehension of books, practice writing, or deeper thinking skills.  It’s to pump up enthusiasm and start a conversation between readers.  We teach kids to “buzz” about books whenever they can, sharing stories they love and passing titles around.  This way, they can do that whenever they want.

Goodreads also gives the kids personal book shelves, where they can track what they read, what they are currently reading, and what they want to read.

Screen Shot 2013-09-21 at 1.36.58 PM

This is one of my favorite parts of the website–the ability to keep track of your reading present, past, and future.

I’d like to go back to the website once a month to update it and have students pick their favorite book from the month to write a review about and recommend to friends.  In the meantime, those that are excited by the site can go on at home and update whenever they like!

2 Responses to “Using Goodreads to Create a Community of Readers”

  1. Suzanne Manzano May 8, 2014 at 12:23 pm #

    How about sharing the instructions that Megan sent you for setting up a class? I’d like to try this with my 6th graders. Thanks!

    • elizabethstavis May 8, 2014 at 2:06 pm #

      Sure! One word of caution–I discovered that Goodreads has a 13 and up user policy, so I had to take my class off. There are some other sites meant specifically for kids, like biblionasium, that have stricter privacy controls.

      Megan’s directions were what she tells students, and then some advice for me:
      For students: You can access GoodReads using the iPad app, or by going to Please use your real first and last names when you sign up so I know who you are! Once you create your account, click “Groups” at the top of the page and search for “Ellis English.” Click on our group, then click “Join Group.” I will approve you, and you will be all set to start reviewing your books! You can “friend” your friends and share book recommendations with them on GoodReads too!

      To me: Our group is private, which means that only users I approve can join the group and any message boards that we set up within the group are only available to approved group members. HOWEVER, any reviews that students write about books are PUBLIC and viewable to the world on that book’s page.

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