Building a Book Log using Goodreads

We do a lot of reading in our homeschool – for our Five in a Row curriculum, to go along with our Science and Story of the World curricula, and just for fun. While we pick out plenty of fun reads for Read Aloud, I do try to pick out some Early Reader books for Kyri to strengthen her reading skills.

When I first started homeschooling late last summer, I had printed out Book Log pages for our portfolio. About three-quarters into the first page (and only a couple of weeks in) I realized that this system was not going to work for us. We read too many books.

I want to be able to track our books, but I for sure don’t have the time or patience to log books by hand. I realized that early on. Around the time we started homeschooling, I stumbled on Goodreads after it was mentioned on a forum I frequent.

I started my profile, and started building my bookshelves. I have several shelves for my personal reading, but I did start a Children’s Bookshelf. This is where I started to list books we were reading for our homeschool studies as well as for leisure. I realized that rather than struggle to keep up with a paper log, I could just use Goodreads to track what was being read for our homeschool portfolio.

Books can be shelved on multiple bookshelves so I recently went through and made even more specific shelves.Here is a list of the bookshelves we currently have for our Book Log:

Children’s – this is our general catch-all bookshelf. All of our children’s books are entered here. Then, I add to the more specific shelves for better organization and easy reference.

Children’s – Science

Children’s – Nature

Children’s – Math

Children’s – Literature

Children’s – World Cultures

Children’s – History

Children’s – Poetry

Children – Vegan

Children – Christian

Children – Independent Reading

Children’s – To Read**

** This “To Read” shelf is for books I may have come across on homeschool forums or conversations with other parents, or from Listopia. These books are ones I am interested in reading at some later date. These books don’t get added to the other Children’s Bookshelves until we’ve actually read them.

Each book entry has a Date Entered (automatically inputed when you enter a book), and you can also enter Date Read if you like. I tend to sit down and add a list of books at once, rather than as we go, so I don’t really use the Date Read option. I think as I assign (or expect) more Independent Reading for Kyri I will track her progress using the Date Read option.

Adding books you and your children read to a single bookshelf or multiple category bookshelves is the simplest way to use Goodreads as a Book Log for your homeschool.

There are other options that may be helpful to you as well.

I am a “print and file” kind of gal, and so at the end of the school year, I want a paper copy of our book log to put into our Portfolio binder. The easiest way I have found to do this is to export your booklist to a .csv file and open in Excel. This exports your entire book collection into .csv format to be opened and edited in Excel. So far I have not found a way to export a single bookshelf, so I have to manually go to the Excel file and Delete the rows of non- Children’s book. There is also a lot of information exported (ISBN for example) that I don’t really need to include so I get rid of those columns as well. I tidy it up a bit and then its ready to print. Prepping the book log for printing is the only time-consuming step, so if you don’t care about having a printed copy, then this is totally unnecessary.

One thing that I really like with Goodreads is the mobile app for smartphones, found in your phone’s App Store. I can actually scan the barcode from books we have read (or that I want to add to our To Read shelf) and it pulls up all the information for that book and lets me shelve it where I want. The only complaint I have about the book scanning, and this is more a complaint toward my library, is  that a lot of the books from the library have the barcode covered. I totally get that they need to cover it since they use a different barcode to track it in their systems, but still it is tedious. I either have to awkwardly pull back the dustjacket to make the barcode able to scan, or (imagine the horror) have to actually manually type the name into Goodreads to look the book up. Beyond the small inconvenience I experience with some library books, however, this mobile app has been so helpful!

Another thing I have found to be very helpful is Listopia. The idea is simple. If you are interested in Children’s books about Science and Nature, you can check out Listopia on Goodreads. Chances are, there is already a list (or five) about the topic for which you are looking for book selections. You can read through the lists and add books to your To Read shelf. If you can’t find a list, start your own. You add a bunch of books, and then it is out there for other people to see. They can add their book selections to this list. It grows and grows and acts as a great book list for others. You can direct to Listopia from the main navigation bar, under the Explore drop-down menu. When you are at the main Listopia page, you can Browse By Tag (there are over 300 listed for “Children”) or you can search for Lists. For example, I can search for lists using “Children Science” and several lists that include Science and Science Fiction for Children come up. I can then explore these lists to find book suggestions.

One more feature that I really like – you can add a Goodreads widget to your website. Here at The Vegan Bee I have my Goodreads widget showing what is on my “Read” bookshelf. But over at Kyriandra’s Big Day, I only show the Childrens bookshelf. If you blog about your homeschooling, this might be something you would be interested in.

A couple of features of Goodreads that may be helpful, for your Book Log or for your own book shelves, are Amazon Bookmarklet and the Reviews. The Amazon Bookmarklet is available from the Widgets page, and is simply added to your Favorites toolbar. When you come across a book on Amazon, you can click on Add to Goodreads in your Favorites toolbar and a small window opens up from Goodreads, letting you add to a bookshelf (read, currently reading, or to read). Another great resource are the reviews for books. Usually if you look for a book on Goodreads, reader reviews are included in the search results. You can easily add reviews for the books on your bookshelves. These reviews can then be published to your blog. There is also an option for Private Notes, if you want to add notes about a particular book relevant to you but that does not need to be viewed by others.

I know there are other booklist websites available, but I have really enjoyed using Goodreads, and have found it so easy to use. It is very helpful in keeping track of our books for our homeschooling. If you are looking for an easy way to maintain a Book Log for your homeschool, this is definitely worth checking out.

Access all of your bookshelves from My Books on the top navigation bar. All individual bookshelves are then listed on the left. Date Added is automatic based on when you added to bookshelf, but you can edit the Date Read if you choose to keep up with this.
The Toolbar, shown below your bookshelves on your My Books page, contain options like Import/Export, for importing book lists from other sites, and exporting your bookshelves to .csv format to read in Excel. You can also check out Widgets if you are intersted in installing any Goodread widgets on your own website. The Amazon Bookmarklet can be accessed from the Widget page.
There are several widgets available to install on your website. Note – not all are compatible with WordPress, but these are clearly marked. You edit the options and then copy the code for the widget to your own website. So easy!
As you can see, there is a lot of information in the .csv export file. All your books will be shown, so remove the ones you don’t want to include in your Book Log (delete rows). Remove all the extra information for each book (delete columns), adjust your print areas, and with a little tweaking to get it sized how you like, you are ready to print.

Homeschool Classes in the Community

One of the fun things about homeschooling is taking advantage of the classes available in the local community. There are so many opportunities we have to pick and choose, or else we will be so busy we will always be out of the house!

We have a wonderful homeschool community here in San Antonio, so there is a constant stream of information for homeschool parents, letting us know when opportunities are available that might interest our children.

Taking classes in the community has many benefits – hands-on learning experiences you really can’t replicate at home, expertise in a field that you may not know a lot about, time to interact with other homeschoolers, and an opportunity for your children to have different teachers, possibly in a “classroom” setting.

Here are three recent homeschool classes we participated in this Spring:

Cibolo Nature Center

Homeschool Class at the San Antonio Botanical Garden

Homeschool Day at the Witte Museum

Do you take advantage of homeschool classes offered in your community?

***While I still write about homeschool topics here at the vegan bee, I have started to shift some of the more specific content to Kyriandra’s Big Day, which is the online portion of our homeschool portfolio. I try to link to the content I post over there, if not in dedicated posts, then through Twitter and Facebook. I hope you will check it out regularly to see what we have been up to.***