BRING YOUR BOOKS TO LIFE ON THE WEB
World Book Kids, based on the “Student Discovery Encyclopedia,” targets young students (up through middle-school) with easy-to-read articles, interactive games and teacher resources. It is accessible by subscription only. (Subscribers also get a “substantial discount” on the print set of encyclopedias, says Parello.)
The company hired producer Douglas Love, who developed the Disney Channel’s “Out of the Box” kids’ craft show, to design print-out activities. “We wanted to get our online products into classrooms,” Parello notes.
Young students can develop skills in research while accessing and using primary sources, databases and rich media. A mascot, Atlas the dog, guides kids through a colorful series of Web pages designed to familiarize students with cross-referencing and categorical research.
A contest this fall will feature videos sent by kids offering their tips on how best to evaluate Web sites for well-researched, credible, quality information. Meant to increase “information literacy,” Parello says the contest provides “a good way to interact with World Book” through uploading videos and winning prizes.
On the other hand, World Book has “struggled” with the right way to do online forums. “We didn’t want to do it just because everyone else was doing it,” says Parello.
“I think in the future you will see much more interactivity, many more forums and much more of a community,” Marshall adds, “but I do think that publishers should be realistic about the kind of community they can create online. After all, there’s a hell of a lot of competition out there in the Web zone. It’s easy to draw them, [but] hard to keep them there and encourage them to interact in a lasting way.”
That principle perhaps is nowhere better exemplified than in the world of children’s literature, where, these days, intense interest in a book series like “Harry Potter” equals an expectation among Web-savvy kids that there will be a high-quality companion site. Keeping these kids engaged, however, involves the sort of bells and whistles that have made Flash Player and Shockwave as essential to juvenile fiction as jacket illustrations.
- PHILADELPHIA, PA