A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this website.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that for every correct answer to this site's endless quiz, ten grains of rice are donated to the UN World Food Program. It's addictive, it can spark competitiveness -- "I can donate more rice than you can!", and bragging -- "My vocabulary score topped out at 42!" Neither children nor adults are immune to its lure.
What's it about?
It's fiendishly simple: the screen presents the viewer with a vocabulary question. Click on the correct answer and FREE RICE donates ten grains of rice to the UN World Food Program. A graphic on the side shows bowls of rice as they fill and accumulate. That's it. Except that now there's another word on the screen, a harder word, so you click on the definition for that one and watch as the score improves. By the time the participant checks out the other topics available -- geography, French, multiplication tables -- dozens of words have been defined and multiple bowls full of rice have been donated.
Is it any good?
The site's stated goals make it plain. Free Rice exists to provide free education and help end world hunger. Period. Somehow they manage to make it fun in the process. Kids like the game format and respond well to the challenge of improving their scores. Parents will want to play it themselves for the mental stimulation. And all the while, every correct answer drops another ten grains of rice into some hungry person's bowl.
Interestingly, the site's FAQ does more than answer typical questions. It presents issues that might be raised about hunger, about the nature of learning, and why the site even exists. The sponsors who pay for the donated rice are listed and linked to, and questions that a thoughtful adolescent might ask -- like how much rice does it take to feed a person for a day -- are addressed. There's more to chew on here than just rice. At the time of this review, Free Rice had donated over 96 billion grains of rice -- and improved the minds of countless people along the way.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the meaning of world hunger and what they learned on this site. Be prepared for conversations about different artistic styles, or sentences peppered with words like "scoff" and "chastise." As vocabulary improves, confidence grows, and dinner table conversation may never be the same.
Are there any shelters close to you where you can donate canned food? It's important to know that hunger isn't something that only happens in far-off places.
For kids who love giving back
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