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Lifestyle | The best Web Reads for a summer full of learning

Issue: "Fighting fatalism," July 12, 2014

Looking for a summer educational activity for your children? Web Reads appears weekly on and here's a list of websites noted over the past half-year that could be useful in key subject areas.

ENGLISH: For those who want to be better writers but don’t have editors to point out your errors, Hemingway offers hope: It’s a website that uses different colors to show common writing mistakes such as passive voice, reliance on adverbs, and overly long or confusing sentences. The website is a tad confusing because it doesn’t have a box in which you insert your paragraphs for analysis: Just type or paste text anywhere on the web page and click edit.

HISTORY: British Pathé has uploaded 85,000 historic newsreels to its YouTube channel. The archives are searchable and contain many films documenting wars, cultural events, and disasters. One documents the explosion of the hydrogen-filled Hindenburg.

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ART: The internet has opened up art museums to anyone with a good connection. One website, Open Culture, has compiled a list of museums with digitized collections. Two significant ones include the Rijksmuseum in the Netherlands and the National Gallery in Washington, D.C. The whole list is available at Open Culture. 

ART HISTORY: Khan Academy, well-known for its math videos, also has an amazing website devoted to art history. It has more than 500 engaging videos and 300 essays organized by period, style, artist, and theme.

And is a portal  for exploring particular artists, works, or museums.

SCIENCE: Scientist/host Martyn Poliakoff of the University of Nottingham has a great voice, big hair, and a super-wide tie—and he makes chemistry interesting. The YouTube channel Periodic Videos features more than 500 videos about chemistry, including one that takes you inside the gold vault of the Bank of England. has videos of dramatic and easy-to-replicate experiments and ideas for science fair projects. Minute Physics has short animated videos on topics like magnets, gravity, and the tides. It also has videos related to the origins of the universe that you may want to preview.

GEOGRAPHY: The New York Public Library is making available more than 20,000 high-resolution digitized maps that you can view and download for free. Included: 1,100 maps of the Mid-Atlantic United States and cities from the 16th to 19th centuries; a detailed collection of more than 700 topographic maps of the Austro-Hungarian empire created between 1877 and 1914; an incredibly diverse collection of more than 1,000 maps of New York City, its boroughs and neighborhoods, dating from 1660 to 1922, which detail transportation, vice, urban renewal, and much more.

For more geography, visit the website, which features short, well-made videos of countries and cities around the world.

And the most important subject of all, CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES: Spend a summer afternoon baking them and learn the science behind them. At Serious Eats, J. Kenji Lopez-Alt experiments with butter temperature, yolk-to-egg-white ratios, and variations of each ingredient (and explains the science behind his choices) in order to discover the perfect chocolate chip cookie.

Susan Olasky
Susan Olasky

Susan pens book reviews and other articles for WORLD as a senior writer and has authored eight historical novels for children. Susan and her husband Marvin live in Asheville, N.C. Follow Susan on Twitter @susanolasky.


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