Book lovers use Web to spread the word about joy of reading

Four middle-schoolers in Howard set up site to encourage their peers

June 25, 2000|By Diane B. Mikulis | Diane B. Mikulis,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Four avid readers at Mount View Middle School in the Howard County community of Marriottsville decided they wanted to help other children develop a love of reading - and hit on a high-tech way to do it.

Their vehicle: "From Cover to Cover," a pupil-designed, pupil-run Web site offering book recommendations, short reviews and a place where young readers can promote their favorites.

"It is a Web site which is designed to get kids my age interested in reading," said Malissa Durham, who will go to River Hill High School in Clarksville in the fall. The subheading on the site is "A kid's guide to great books."

The Web site is the brainchild of Malissa; Rachel Herman, who will be in the eighth grade this fall; and soon-to-be high school freshmen Bonnie Scott and Michelle Runk, who will attend Mount Hebron High School.

Active in book club

All four have been active in the Middle School Book Club in Howard County, which brings pupils together once a month to discuss their favorite books and share ideas.

"I was having trouble finding books," says Malissa, who reads at least one book a day. She decided to share the "worthwhile" books she read with others by way of the Web site.

A search of the Web turns up plenty of sites related to young adult literature, but the girls quickly found that most of those were created by librarians, publishers or other adults, and many are aimed at teachers or parents.

The girls decided to launch their Web site during an independent research project through Mount View's gifted and talented program.

"I love to read, and a lot of kids don't, so I thought I could help them," says 13-year-old Bonnie.

Linked to school site

All four girls wrote content for the Web page. Malissa concentrated on the mechanics of creating the Web site, which she researched and taught herself to do with a little help from a friend.

"From Cover to Cover" is linked to the school's Web site during the school year and also is available on its own during the summer. There are items profiling authors such as Ray Bradbury, Ann Rinaldi and Judy Blume. A section for award-winning books highlights Newbery medal winner "Ella Enchanted" by Gail Carson Levine.

The site contains information on the Middle School Book Club, including books selected for group discussion. And it singles out individual books from time to time for special recommendation - May's choice was "The Golden Compass" by Phillip Pullman.

But perhaps one of the most important elements is "Your Favorites," where online visitors can submit information on books they would like to recommend.

"We'll put them all on," says Rachel.

In particular, the site organizers are looking to get comments and views from young male readers.

Supportive teacher

The girls have been encouraged by the feedback they received from fellow Mount View pupils who have seen the site.

"We have shown it to people, and they like it," says Bonnie. Pupils like the clean graphics and the variety of books.

Lorraine Quinn, the school's gifted and talented resource teacher, has been supportive of the effort and provides a computer in her classroom for the girls to use whenever they have free time.

"I'm really impressed with what middle-school students can do," she says. "I think it's wonderful that they chose to concentrate on reading and then to ask for input from anyone who wants to contribute."

Quinn plans to recruit several pupils to maintain the Web site in the next school year.

But she can't say enough about the four girls who created the site. She praises their independence, motivation and creativity. Above all, she's impressed with their commitment to sharing literature.

"They just love to read, and it's contagious," she says.

To help other middle-school children catch the reading bug, place a bookmark at

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