Sylvan foundation starts Web site for children

Online endeavor offers rewards for reading

April 25, 1999|By Young Chang | Young Chang,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

Children across the nation -- and beyond -- will soon be meeting dinosaur Rex Reader and his canine pal, Bailey Bookmark. These cartoon characters are the online guides to a free Web site begun last week by the Sylvan Learning Foundation to encourage reading.

The site ( features instant online rewards for children who read books from a growing list of 5,000 recommended titles and more substantial prizes from local sponsors in reading competitions among schools and classrooms in Baltimore and Baltimore County.

Visitors to the site can select a grade, reading level and genre of literature and obtain a list of as many as 50 suitable titles. A child can click on many of them to obtain a preview.

"This is where the computers stop," said Douglas L. Becker, president of Sylvan Learning Systems Inc. and the nonprofit foundation, as the Web site was unveiled Thursday to an audience of adults and children at Port Discovery.

10-question quiz

"We wouldn't want computers to keep kids from reading," Becker said. But when the child finishes a book, he or she logs on to take a 10-question quiz about it, and good scores turn into points for prizes.

"Kids love goals and competing," said Becker. With Book Adventure, they can find more incentives to read and rack up points on the computer in a way other than playing video games.

Locally, children can win passes to the National Aquarium and the Maryland Science Center, discount coupons and $5 gift certificates from Barnes and Noble bookstores, and unspecified items from the Orioles.

Intrinsic rewards, which will constantly change, said Becker, include the opportunity to play games while logged on and to do magic tricks. The program also lets users print out Book Adventure bookmarks, badges and paper airplane designs.

Children keep track

Children select passwords to set up separate school and home accounts which will keep track of their reading and quiz scores.

Teachers can log on, maintain a class record of reading accomplishments and print out a customized letter for each child's parents updating them on the books that have been read. Parents in households with computers can keep track of children's reading.

Sylvan Vice President Richard E. Bavaria, a former Baltimore County English teacher and administrator, said free Book Adventure starter kits will be sent to 30,000 schools around the country. Schools or teachers can request a kit by calling 877-FOR-KITS.

Pub Date: 4/25/99

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