Jurgen Appelo GoodReads icon

Jurgen Appelo
GoodReads icon


I can’t thank Paula and Jabiz enough for encouraging me to get my students on Goodreads this year.  I wish I had done this years ago. Why?  We’ve become a network of empowered readers, pushing one another to find new texts, and join different groups on Goodreads.  I’ve begged a number of colleagues to sign up too (here’s how to sign up, and here’s how to beg). Yes, I have a full-blown obsession with Goodreads.  Here’s why I think you might want to fall in love with the app too:

Listen, look, and be aware of what your students are reading.

In a media world which consistently depicts teens as lazy and out of touch, Goodreads is the perfect counterpoint.  The majority of my some hundred students this year all joined Emma Watson’s “Our Shared Shelf,” the feminist book group on Goodreads, virtually over night.  Click here to read all about the group’s interesting back story.  I didn’t ask students to do this.  I didn’t even know the group existed.  They found out about it, and encouraged each other to check it out.

If we want students to read more, we need to get out of their way, and let them.

In an anonymous survey we gave to our students, approximately 75% of our students say that they read titles that are suggested by a friend (not a teacher, not a parent, not a librarian). And Goodreads is a platform that allows students to see what their peers are reading–and enjoying.

(Taken from this Edutopia piece written by Beth Hughes)

Stop assuming your student needs to put their phone down.

Ask a few teens how many books they have on their device, and be prepared to be amazed.  A few months ago, a student asked me if they could use their phone during our Drop Everything and Read time, and without thinking, I said, “No, please choose one of our library books.”  As soon as the words came out of my mouth, I realized my mistake.  Reading is both very social, and very personal.  Choosing what you read is a way of exploring your interests, defining your character, and feeling an ownership over your own headspace. I turned back to that student, and said, “Actually, of course you can, enjoy your book.” That same student was sure to recommend the book she was so excited to continue reading to me on Goodreads later that day.  And yes, I added it to my ‘to read’ shelf right away.

This Tech Insider post, “11 Stanford students reveal what’s on their home screens,” flips the common narrative about students and their phones on its head.  The power of mobile is the story of collaboration and relationships. Or at least that can be the narrative, if we are mindful in setting that tone, and modeling that theme.

What does your ‘to be read’ stack say about you?

Well, this Buzzfeed quiz suggests we can predict your age based on your reading habits, for starters.  But I think we learn a great deal about our colleagues by sharing our book stacks.  unpacks this via his piece:

What does your bookshelf say about you?

Sharing your shelf is sharing yourself – showcasing the building blocks that have crafted your knowledge, personality, and identity. While the internet has long valued the voyeurism in sharing and viewing photos of beautiful books as objects, grand libraries as cathedrals of intellect, and bookshelves as marvels of design, I created ShareYourShelf.tumblr.com as a way to attach individuality and ownership to these previously anonymous assortments of titles. I also don’t have enough time to visit everyone’s living room, but that doesn’t leave me any less curious as to the books there.

What does your school’s participation with Goodreads say about their values?

We throw the term ‘life long learner’ around loosely these days.  What is documenting your life’s reading other than a nice actionable ‘life long learning’ goal? When administrators make the time to connect and share their love of reading with your students, it matters.  A special shout out to Mr. Monk, Ms. Taylor, Mr. Peel, Ms. LeGuen, and Dr. Badcock for making that time. I hope they have some very engaging summer reading coming their way, and I look forward to following their reads from a continent away next year.

Dedicating ourselves to learning means we need the support of our community.  After a year of experimenting with Goodreads in my classes, with a few colleagues, and with a few colleagues-to-be at my next school, I cannot overstate the applications this tool has a a relationship builder.  Jennifer Roberts puts it better in her blogpost here:

The best part of Goodreads however, is the way it has helped me build relationships with my students. Many of them are much more excited about reading. They are picking up things I recommend to them and recommending books to each other. Previously reluctant readers are seeking out books at the public library. A tough (and very at-risk) student noticed that I had Shadow Speaker on my to-read list. He approached me shyly one day after class and told me he had a copy at home he could loan to me. He doesn’t turn in homework very often, but he brought me that book. I better go read it.

As educators, we all need more ways to make our passions visible.  Connecting and networking your reading habits is a great way to do this.

Even HBR has a piece on the power of networking with Goodreads, scope it out here.

Moyan Brenn Reading

Moyan Brenn



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Jurgen Appelo

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