A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this website.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Into the Book was created in 2006 by the Wisconsin Media Lab as a way to provide students with online practice in reading comprehension. The support resources are critical to planning ahead, because the website doesn't stand alone well. The material on the website was designed with third-graders in mind, but advanced younger students or older students with learning issues or ELL needs can get something out of this as well. Content is offered in both English and Spanish. Parents should be aware that the material on the site isn't cheap; though initially designed for schools, the site is also marketed to homeschooling parents as well, as a supplement for their kids, but it will cost a few hundred dollars to access everything fully.
What's it about?
INTO THE BOOK is a reading-comprehension site tailor-made for third-grade students. The Student Area offers eight comprehension-strategy icons plus one that combines them all. Kids can watch video demonstrations and choose step-by-step activities to learn about elements such as strong, weak, and distracting connections to texts. A game-like atmosphere and colorful displays engage kids, but the focus on learning is never lost. Kids can print their work, email results, and listen to theme-based songs. Additional practice resources include online activity and video guides, books, and print lessons.
Is it any good?
This resource offers a complete and thoughtful reading-comprehension curriculum for classroom teachers that also could be useful for homeschooling families and parents looking for at-home activities to bolster learning. Students can evaluate websites, blogs, and more traditional texts. They also can practice reading-comprehension skills, from making connections and activating prior knowledge to inferring and synthesizing. Activities such as creating a pirate handbook and assembling a rocket engine will appeal to reluctant readers. The classroom scenes (and songs) can feel like Barney episodes, but kids can make mature and insightful observations about, for example, productions of Hansel and Gretel, a biography of Sacagawea, and online NASA study cards. Impressive print lessons offer complete instructions, conferencing guidelines, and organizers such as a synthesizing hat handout.
Although the website is professionally designed and implemented, certain aspects might be confusing. There's a lack of consistency in terminology, and learning goals frequently alternate for videos, activities, and teaching resources. Games don't always make sense, text selections are not always well-matched to activities, and instructions are sometimes unclear. Parent guidance may be needed. Kids can't view their progress, but they can print out or email their work as they finish it. A confusing dialogue box sometimes hangs up at the ends of activities, forcing kids to close the browser tab and restart, as they can't use the back button on their browsers. Finally, the price, which can run upward of $300 for all content, can keep some users away, especially those who can't justify the price for a supplemental English course. But for parents who are willing and able to spend the money and overlook these flaws, they'll find a decent set of material for their young readers here.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the difference between reading words and understanding them. If you can pronounce foreign words, but you don't understand what they mean, do you really know what you're saying? Does English feel that way sometimes, too?
Read short books once for pure enjoyment without applying the strategies. Then, if kids like the book, choose a strategy and read again to practice comprehension. Check the book lists for titles of interest to your kid.
- Subjects: Language & Reading: discussion, reading, reading comprehension, text analysis, vocabulary
- Skills: Thinking & Reasoning: applying information, deduction, logic, making conclusions, part-whole relationships, thinking critically
Creativity: combining knowledge
Self-Direction: academic development, self-reflection, work to achieve goals
Communication: asking questions, conveying messages effectively, listening, speaking
Collaboration: cooperation, respecting other viewpoints
- Genre: Educational
- Pricing structure: Paid, Free (Wisconsin residents can watch the full video lessons free at WIMediaLab.org. For all others, the DVD series is $395, individual skills are $89, and the "Behind the Lesson" professional development VHS is $295. Posters and bulletin board strips also can be ordered.)