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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Read. Release. Repeat.: An Online "Bookstore" Encourages Book Recycling

If you love a book, set it free.
By Cheri Lucas
Credit: Hugh D’Andrade

Our favorite literature whisks us on wild adventures to distant lands such as Narnia and Terabithia. But at BookCrossing.com, it's the book that does the traveling.

BookCrossing.com advocates the act of releasing a book "into the wild" -- in a shopping mall or on a school bus, for instance -- and then allowing its past readers to follow the volume's serendipitous journey as it travels into new hands, embarking on an adventure of its own. In many ways, it evokes the childlike spirit of sending messages in a bottle or tied to a balloon.

After reading a story, BookCrossers register the book and mark the inside cover with the site's URL and an identification number provided by BookCrossing.com. Users then leave the book in a public place or pass it on to a friend. The new reader is encouraged to join the free site, post comments about the book, and, before re-releasing it, let the previous owners know it's in good hands. In this case, finders are not encouraged to become keepers.

Seventh graders in Necole Hurley's English Language Arts class at Perry Central School, in Perry, New York, used BookCrossing to create their own virtual bookshelves, complete with reviews and journal entries. "BookCrossing is one way to integrate technology in the classroom and make it real for kids," says Hurley. "It also enabled the kids to talk about literature more. They were recommending books to each other."

Not only will students hone their interactive Web skills, they'll discover that the literature they love can also touch others.

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