Great Websites for Kids (GWS) features links to websites of interest to children 14 years of age and younger, organized into diverse subject headings such as dinosaurs, authors and illustrators; games and entertainment; U.S. history; astronomy and space; and music. There is also a special section with sites of interest to parents, caregivers and teachers. Each site entry includes a brief annotation and a grade-level rating.
Members of the ALSC GWS Committee review potential sites for inclusion and vote on the sites to be included. They also regularly check the entire site to ensure currency and re-evaluate sites when necessary.
“This list offers a wide-ranging representation of websites designed for children and caregivers, addressing and supporting an array of interests,” said Kimberly Grad, senior librarian, Brooklyn (N.Y.) Public Library, and Denise Vallandingham, youth services manager, Boone County (Ky.) Public Library, co-chairs of ALSC’s Great Websites for Kids Committee.
Grad said the committee bases its decisions on carefully considered criteria.
For instance, “When we look at a site, we want to make sure that there is clear authorship,” she said.
As it states in the criteria, the name of the individual or group creating the site should be clearly stated.
In addition, the creator should give a source for information in the site where necessary.
The website author or manager should also provide a way for users to make comments or ask questions and be able to answe question regarding copyright, trademark, or ownership of all material on the site. Sites that knowingly violate copyright statutes or other laws should not be linked, listed, or recommended.
Grad also said the committee pays attention to how well designed the site is and whether the links work.
She said the committee looks for an appealing graphic design.
Another important criterion involves whether a site requires a fee or the revelation of personal information.
Grad said, “What we’re noticing these days is that you can often join a website for fee, which leads you to another level of membership. But that often means that the child would have to give personal information, or a credit card, or something like that.
“We’re looking at sites that don’t offer that, or if they do, the child could go onto the site and get enough information without joining. So, we keep an eye on all of that, because we’re looking at safety.”
Grad said the committee looks for sites that are meaningful and useful and educates or informs the child or inspires the imagination.
She said one of the sites she likes is a music education site from the Dallas Symphony Orchestra.
“I think it’s great, because you can see different composers, you can see when they lived and died and when they born and where they were from and you can see the different classical styles. It’s very good for music listening and appreciation as well.”
Another site she recommends is GenerationOn, a site that focuses on volunteering for teens and tweens, where they can get ideas for projects.
One of the new sites is Poptropica. The mastermind behind that site is Jeff Kinney, author of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. Poptropica is described as “a virtual world for kids to travel, play games, compete in head-to-head competition, and communicate safely.”
The complete listing of great sites with annotations and selection criteria can be found at www.ala.org/greatsites
- ABCya! – www.abcya.com
- All About Birds – www.allaboutbirds.org
- CIA for Kids-Games – https://www.cia.gov/kids-page/
- Generation on Youth Advisory Council – www.generationon.org
- Judy Schachner – www.skippyjonjones.com
- PBS Kids Raising Readers Kids Island – www.pbskids.org/island
- Poptropica – www.poptropica.com
- Seymour Simon – www.seymoursimon.com
- The New York Times Education – www.nytimes.com/learning
- We Give Books – www.wegivebooks.org