FreeRice logoHey, have you seen the site FreeRice? My wife Celia Holm, a youth librarian here at Austin Public Library, told me about it yesterday. If you’re looking for an online game a little more genteel than one that develops nothing more sophisticated than fine motor skills – a game that will keep brainy kids (older kids and teens in particular) occupied for a while – this is it. Plus it gives us all a virtuous feeling whenever we play it.

Plus, library folks, you may become addicted to it yourselves.

Here’s how it works. It’s a vocabulary-building game. It starts you out with a middling-level word, such as:

tattletale means:

informer

pot

lout

resistance

You choose one, and if it’s correct, you (through the site’s advertising sponsors) have just donated 20 grains of rice (or actually, the value thereof) to the United Nations World Food Program. If you get three words incorrect, the vocabulary Level goes down. If you get three right, it increases. Keep playing, and getting words correct, and those grains add up. Cool, no?

There are currently 55 vocabulary levels in the game, although the FAQ says that it’s rare for anyone to go beyond Level 50. I played the game three times, each time getting stuck at Level 44, when I couldn’t get past words such as “sudorific” and “blain.” (They mean “causing perspiration,” and “blister” respectively, I learned.)

But check it out. If you know any kids/teens who are cramming for standardized tests that involve vocabulary – or young people who just plain love words – make sure you tell them about it.

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