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22 Mar, Wednesday
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Montreal Families

Wesbite offers book recommendations for teens and adults

The Book Dumpling is a unique book-recommendation website that strives for the personal touch in an impersonal online world

Andrea Borod is a bona fide literary matchmaker: she connects people with books she thinks they’ll enjoy reading.

A lifelong reader with an insatiable appetite for the written word, Borod’s book knowledge has been in demand for years; friends, family and students have often turned to her for advice about what to read next.

In early 2013, the high school teacher decided to launch a website as a way to share her knowledge with a larger audience. “The intent really is for people to go online and find something interesting to read,” says Borod, who teaches media and drama, and English at Lower Canada College.

The Book Dumpling, which incorporates her fiance’s nickname for her, is a smorgasbord of books, each of which has a capsule synopsis. The home page invites visitors to three main sections: the Critic’s Take are suggestions of books that frequently appear across critics’ choice lists, Off the Beaten Path leads to “oldies but goodies”, and Book Club Central is a resource for book clubs to help stimulate discussion. There’s also a teen version of the book club called Teen Book Talks.

Arguably the most intriguing element on the home page is the invitation to take a survey in order to find “the best book for you.” The list of questions include what genre you generally like to read, what section of the newspaper you read first and what you want from a book (escapism, education, etc.). She also asks what books you would recommend and which ones you don’t like.

Borod replies herself to each completed survey within five days. “I think people are starved for personal attention on the Internet,” she explains. “This is a healing touch, and it promotes literacy.”

So far, the recommendations are geared to adults and teenagers.

She wants to add a bookshelf for younger readers and has been looking to partner with an elementary school teacher or an avid reader of children’s books willing to put in the time to make it happen. (If you’re interested, contact her via her website.)

Re-ignite the literary flame

A voracious reader, cracking the spine on an average of three books a weeks, Borod firmly believes everyone is a reader; it’s even her tagline. That’s another reason she created the website: to ignite – or re-ignite – the literary flame in people who are currently not reading.

She says many people tell her they haven’t read for years but would like to get back into it. For them, she has created a section on the site called I’m not much of a reader.

Borod also takes pains to note that she doesn’t let her own tastes get in the way. For example, she’s always on the look-out for well-written sports biographies for teenage boys, or good business or sci-fi books. And if someone asks about a specific, usually popular book that she knows is poorly written, she steers them towards something in that vein but better crafted. She also thinks it’s good for people to disagree about a book, and to have lively discussion about its merits and faults.

As for the Book Dumpling, Borod says the hits on her website have been much greater than she ever anticipated when it went live in May. By November, she had received more than 1,200 surveys from among the 8,500 visitors.

“The website is just cool because there really is no financial motivation,” says Borod, who’s also on Twitter (@BookDumpling). “It’s coming from a place of pure passion, and people respond well to that. “

Reading tips for parents

How can parents help nurture a love of reading in their children? Taking the cue from Borod, the key is two-pronged: encourage reading and promote positive reading habits, and strive to never create a negative reading experience.

  1. Be very positive about reading
  2. Use resources, such as bookstores and libraries, to help create a desire to read
  3. Establish daily reading habits, such as reading at bedtime (read to them until they’re old enough to read themselves)
  4. Don’t send your child to his room to read as a punishment.
  5. Don’t dismiss your child’s taste in books. You might think she should enjoy the same things you did when you were young, but each individual has her own interests – don’t disparage hers, or belittle her for not liking what you do.
  6. Don’t discount magazines, newspapers, blogs, etc. as sources for great reading.
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