Developing Library Goals to Carry Into Every Collaborative Meeting

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Last year, a book impacted my life, my library program, and found its way into so many conversations with students, teachers, and librarians.  “Expect the Miraculous” came to be our mantra in the Barrow Media Center thanks to Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo.  It was all thanks to p. 130-131.

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This summer, as I sat down to develop our library program goals for the 2014-2015 school year, that mantra of expecting the miraculous everyday was still a big part of my thinking.  However, this summer I carried so much more with me as I reflected on goals.

I had my experiences and conversations with the #Wandoo5 at Evanced Games in Indianapolis.

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I had the moonshot thinking and action plan of the Google Teacher Academy and becoming a Google Certified Teacher.

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I had the Invent to Learn Workshop with Sylvia Martinez and Gary Stager.

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I had numerous experiences at the ISTE 2014 conference including a zombie fighting keynote from Jennifer LaGarde, empowering talks from George Couros and Todd Nesloney, and inspiring keynotes from Ashley Judd and Kevin Carroll about the importance of each child’s story and the importance of play.

The more I reflected on my summer professional learning experiences the more I realized that I wanted this year’s goals to be different.  In the past, I’ve made big goals about developing the participatory culture in our library, but I’ve also made specific goals about the collection.  While the collection is important, it is not my primary focus for the library program.  I was reminded of a question in Jennifer LaGarde’s keynote about the Dewey decimal system and her answer of “who cares”.  Who cares if I have specific goals about the library collection?  What cares if the 300’s have the recommended number of books?  Who cares what the average age of the biographies is?  The heart of the program isn’t the physical collection.  The heart of the program is the students, the teachers, the families, and the community.  The heart of the program is the opportunities that they have through the library.  Now, I’m not saying that I’m abandoning the collection or that I don’t have goals about the collection.  It’s just that my primary goals of the library aren’t about the collection.

I want goals that I can carry with me into every collaborative meeting that I attend.  I want goals that I can put up on the walls of the library and add tangible evidence throughout the year of how they are impacting the students, teachers, and families in our school.  I want goals that support our school and district goals as well as reflect what is being talked about on a global level.

This week, I will share these goals with our faculty during pre-planning, but they’ve already faced their first test.  During our first day of pre-planning our principal set the stage for our year.  I must say that it was one of the most inspiring opening days that I’ve ever been a part of because it wasn’t filled with duties and responsibilities, mandates, and daunting changes.  Of course, all of those things  will be present this year, but our principal chose to focus on how we can value each child’s story, how we can add to and enhance that story by what we offer at school, and how we can develop a vision and mission for our school that represents what we truly believe in education.  As I listened and as I talked with other teachers, I was already carrying my goals with me, and I must say that I felt really good about the 4 goals that I’ve chosen.

These are the goals that are based on the themes that consistently surfaced in all of my reading, professional learning, conversations, and reflections.

Goal 1:  To provide students, teachers, and families opportunities to dream, tinker, create, and share

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I chose these verbs carefully because I think that the order matters.  So often, we feel the time crunch in education and I think we often jump to having students make something with so many detailed requirements that they don’t have time to dream about what they hope they could make or have time to mess around, fail, and learn from those failures.  As I plan projects with teachers this year, I want to intentionally plan spaces for students to pause and wonder and have time to explore before they actually create a final product that is shared with an authentic audience.  I want us to think carefully about how we “show our work” just as Austin Kleon outlines in his books.  He says, “If your work isn’t online, it doesn’t exist.”  I’ll be thinking carefully about how we give students opportunities to create and also how they share their process as well as their final product.

Within this goal, I have subgoals about the number of large-scale projects I will do with each grade level, the development of our library makerspace, the collaborative relationships with our community makerspace and tech startup, and embedded digital citizenship.

Goal 2:  To engage in global thinking and global collaboration

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I can’t even count the number of times that global thinking and collaboration came up this summer.  I feel like so many people around the world are primed and ready for this endeavor during the upcoming year.  Last year, our library was more connected than it has ever been through authors, guest speakers, reading events, and peer feedback through Skype and Google Hangouts.  Even though we felt connected, most of our work was projects or single connections.  I would love to see global thinking and collaboration become more evident in what we do through long-term collaborative relationships around the globe and authentic questions and projects that matter to the world.  Within this goal are the many networks that I will be a part of this year including GlobalTL, Connected Classroom, Skype in the Classroom, and my Twitter PLN.  I’m inspired by the work of Sylvia Rosenthal Tolisano and will look at her work as we plan this year.

As teachers and I plan this year, we will ask ourselves how we are being global thinkers and how we are connecting our students beyond the walls of our school.

Goal 3:  To empower student voice

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When I thought about this goal, I was reminded of many stories shared by George Couros at ISTE including the story of a little boy who made a video where he overjoyed by getting one “like” on a social media post.  I was reminded of Todd Nesloney sharing about his math fair and how he asked students to “wow” him by showing their math knowledge.  Students did more that “wow” him.  They shared their passions in life, involved their families, and were empowered.  I was reminded of how we all want to be heard and feel like we’ve made a difference.  As I plan with teachers this year, I want to ask how we are empowering each student by allowing them to share their passions and feel that their voice is heard.  In the library, I will continue to explore this as well by giving students opportunity to document our year, make decisions about library resources, share their passions through contests and displays, pass on their expertise through co-teaching experiences, and listening closely for opportunities I don’t even know about.

Goal 4:  To support the reading habits and curiosities of students, teachers, and families

It’s no secret that the more you read the better reader you become.  You of course need to have the skills and strategies to accompany that time commitment.  You also need access to reading that matters to you.  This year I want to be more intentional about supporting reading curiosities to match students, teachers, and families to the kinds of stories and information they are looking for.  I also want to be more intentional about documenting that commitment to reading.  Our library is not the only source of reading materials, so I want to continue to build a collaborative relationship with the public library, local bookstores, and other community resources to all work together toward a common goal.

This year, we will explore an Evanced tool called Wandoo Reader.  This tool will give students a portal for documenting their reading lives through tracking book titles and minutes read.  Along the way, there will be challenges issued to students, and within Wandoo Reader, they will earn pieces to a robot that they will customize.  I hope that this tool will offer a level of engagement for tracking reading as well as encourage students to spend more time reading in multiple ways from multiple locations.

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Our planning will begin this week and I look forward to carrying these goals with me, trying them out, and see what miraculous things happen this school year.

What are YOUR library goals?  I invite you to think about them in new ways and share.

 

 

Reflections on the #Wandoo5: A Visit to Evanced

photo 4 (2)This has been a whirlwind summer.  Across 9 days from June 22-July1, I visited Evanced in Indianapolis, became a Google Certified Teacher at the Google Teacher Academy in Atlanta, and experienced the awesomeness of ISTE in Atlanta.  My brain was so exhausted that it has been hard to pull out the strands of what I actually learned.  However, I’m going to slowly start letting the learning soak in and write about each of those experiences here beginning with the #Wandoo5

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During the past school year, a small group of 5th graders began beta testing a tool called Wandoo Planet.  Wandoo Planet is an interest genome project like Pandora or Netflix where students share their interests in a game-like environment.  In return, Wandoo Planet offers book, movie, and game recommendations to them based on those interests.  We loved this tool so much that we used it to kickoff our summer reading at the end of the year.  Lindsey Hill at Evanced Skyped with every class in 2nd-5th grade and families, UGA students, and Barrow student ambassadors assisted me in getting every student signed up for an account.

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Other schools were also exploring Wandoo Planet and hosting the Banishing Boredom Tour at their schools.  Thanks to some informal conversation between Sherry Gick and Rob Cullin, President of Evanced, and making our work public, 5 library leaders were chosen to visit Evanced Solutions, a DEMCO company, in Indianapolis for a Think Tank.  The details of the Think Tank were really not specific, but when you have an opportunity to get together with Matthew Winner from Maryland, Sherry Gick from Indiana, Shannon Miller from Iowa, and Shawna Ford from Texas, you don’t say no and you expect nothing less than awesome!

Before we even arrived, a name had been created, the Wandoo 5 (#Wandoo5).  It felt like a giant signal had been activated in the sky and we were climbing aboard our planes to assemble at headquarters for a secret mission.

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We all arrived in the afternoon on June 22 and had a chance to hangout, have informal conversations, and enjoy downtown Indianapolis.  Lindsey Hill (@thelindseyhill), Reading Engagement Innovator at Evanced, made us feel right at home from the moment our planes landed and she didn’t stop even when our planes were returning us home.  You can tell that the people at Evanced truly care about libraries, librarians, and especially readers.

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On Monday June 23, the Think Tank began.  I was amazed by how we started because we didn’t start with the products that Evanced offers.  The very first question asked of us was to describe the landscape of school libraries and librarianship and to think about what some of our biggest challenges are.  Where would we start?  Our attention immediately turned to our students and access to information.  This particular strand of the conversation went from access to quality devices to access to Internet outside of school.  Our attention turned to the teachers within our buildings and the wide range of experiences and comfort levels with using and taking risks with technology.  Finally our attention turned to our colleagues around the world and how we support one another.

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Some Takeaways from Think Tank Part 1:

  • As we take risks as teacher librarians, it is more important than ever to show our work in a public way.  It isn’t about always showing the polished product at the end.  It’s about showing the process that it took to get there, even if it wasn’t successful.  We never know who we are mentoring along the way by showing our work.
  • It is more important than ever to build your own Professional Learning Network (PLN).  We all come from a range of support systems.  Some of us are fortunate enough to work in districts that are supportive of our work and have administrators that respect and value what happens in the libraries.  Others don’t have that support system.  Regardless of where we are, there is a vast network of librarians ready to support us.  From following #tlchat on Twitter to watching the TL Virtual Cafe webinars to tuning in to TL News Night to building your own network of librarian colleagues on Twitter or Google Plus Communities, it is more possible than ever to build your own support system that pushes your thinking and enriches your work rather than feeling like you are living on a deserted island in your school.
  • Evanced listens!  To sit there and share the landscape of libraries and the challenges we face was overwhelming, but it was nice to know that there is a company that has the word “solutions” in their title on our side.  They may not be able to solve all of the challenges we face, but we at least had a voice and impact into future solutions that they may explore in the landscape of libraries and librarianship.

The next part of our day was looking at the landscape of Evanced.  Matt Sheley, Vice President of Evanced, shared the journey that the company took in arriving at Wandoo Planet and Wandoo Reader as solutions to a challenge.  The company looked at reading data that showed a population of students who weren’t reading beyond elementary grades.  They wanted to develop a tool that connected learners with materials that resonated with their interests in the hopes that it would grow them into lifelong learners and readers.  It was truly amazing to see the process from notes in a journal to the tool that we are using today.

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During lunch, we got to view Wandoo Reader, which is primarily focused on public libraries for now, but we had the opportunity to brainstorm what this tool might look like within a school.

 

 

To me, one of the most interesting conversations centered on collaboration between school and public libraries.  While we acknowledged the importance of data confidentiality, we also considered how powerful it would be if school and public libraries could share data.  Since students mostly read based on their interests during the summer, being able to see that data as a school librarians would help us improve our collections to match reader interests as well as advise our library members on next reads.

We also got a chance to walk around the Evanced office.  Some parts were very quiet with coders at work.  We also saw some of the displays that were taken to schools and conferences.

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Some Takeaways from Think Tank Part 2:

  • In our libraries and in our schools, we should take time to identify the major challenges that we face.  Rather than try to “fix” them all at once, we should select the one(s) we want to focus on and think beyond just the next steps or even the “research-based” strategies that we always turn to.  While these are certainly things to consider, we should also give ourselves permission to dream and create something entirely new that we build together as we go.  It should be a solution that truly matches the needs of the learners involved and pierces to the root of the challenge.
  • We should never feel done.  I could tell that Evanced is the kind of company that doesn’t put out a product and say “This is it. Take it or leave it.”  They constantly listen, fine tune, and add new features that respond to the needs of the users.  Isn’t that what we should be doing in our libraries and schools?  We are never done.

Our day ended with “Our Whys”.  We each took time to reflect on why we do the work that we do in school libraries.  It was a mixture of the #whylib conversations that took Twitter by storm in April and a series of short TED Talks.   It was very intimidating to me to go last during this sharing because I was blown away by the whys that my colleagues shared.  Our whys included keeping students at the heart of what we do, empowering student voices in the global community, creating a participatory culture that gives all students an opportunity to contribute, and listening to each student that enters our doors and allowing the library to be a home within our buildings.  If these statements had been recorded, I think I would listen to them every day on the way to work to frame my day.

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Some Takeaways from Think Tank Part 3:

  • We each need to be able to share our “why”.  It reminds us why we come to work every day.  It focuses the hundreds of decisions that we make on a daily basis.
  • Again, we need to share the work that we do within our libraries and within that sharing we need to embed our why.  It needs to shine through in the successes and the failures that we share.  When it does, it becomes one of our greatest advocacy tools.

I went to Indiana thinking that I was just going to give a company feedback to improve a tool that they had created and get to hangout with some of my closest professional learning network.  However, I realized that this was much more.  This was about thinking big, dreaming big, and (since I’m Googlified) solving for X through moonshot thinking.

The people at Evanced are listening.  They are dreaming.  They are searching for solutions to some of our biggest challenges.  This was such a rewarding experience, and I’m thankful to all of the people at Evanced for this opportunity.  I look forward to many more conversations in the future.

 

 

 

 

 

Barrow Students are Banishing Boredom with Wandoo Planet

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Back in early February, a group of 5th graders became beta testers for a new tool from Evanced Kids called Wandoo Planet.  It is a kid-powered interest genome project similar to Spotify, Pandora, or Netflix.  Through a visually-stunning, game-like interface, students train the system to understand what their interests are and Wandoo Planet offers book and movie recommendations.

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Since our beta testing began, Evanced has released the beta version to anyone who wants to register for an account.  The polished version will be released in summer or early fall.  I thought this would be the perfect launch to summer reading.  In the past, I’ve tried to get students to think about their interests and begin making lists of possible reading topics, but I felt like it was difficult to carry those initial plans into the summer.  With Wandoo Planet, kids can start thinking about their interests and continue to grow and develop their interests throughout the summer and beyond.  They can take the books and movies that are recommended to the public library or bookstores and gather their summer reading materials.

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Lindsey Hill at Evanced began brainstorming with me on Twitter and email to plan a virtual visit right before we leave for the summer.  She mailed me bookmarks, username/password cards, and buttons to give to all of the students.

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We thought through which classes would come, a schedule that made sense, how to structure the virtual components, and how to best use student time in the library.  We decided on having 2 classes for 45 minute intervals with a 10 minute cushion of time in between sessions.  This allowed us to see all 2nd-5th grade classes.

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Lindsey agreed to Skype with each group and explain Wandoo.  She used this time to explain how Wandoo works as well as how to setup an account.

She also agreed to stay online all day so that students could give her feedback about Wandoo and ask questions.  I loved watching students walk up and have genuine conversations with her.

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The goal for students during the work session portion of the 45-minute segments was to view the “squirrel parade” on Wandoo planet and begin teaching Wandoo what they like, dislike, and love.  After about 5-10 minutes, they setup an account and begin building their Wandoo tree.  The tree gives students recommendations for books.  If they mark a book to keep, it puts a bud on their virtual tree.  After they read and rate the book, the bud turns into leaves on the tree.  Students can also add interest branches to their tree by revisiting the squirrel parade or typing a topic directly onto a branch.  Students had a small amount of time to do this today.  I put a sheet on every table to remind students about all of the steps.

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Students brought their classroom computers with them, but for 2nd grade we had to use the library laptop cart and other library computers.  It was interesting to look around and see all of the ways that students were accessing Wandoo.

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While students were working, we had quite an extensive team of helpers during the day. For the most part, students were independent.  We scheduled helpers to assist students with typing, following directions, and thinking of feedback to go to the camera and give to Lindsey at Evanced.

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During our 1st two session, we had Gretchen Thomas’s maymester EDIT2000 class.  These students were extremely helpful in getting extra computers setup for 2nd grade and having individual conversations with students.  Even if they didn’t feel like they “helped”, their conversations pushed students’ thinking about reading interests.  I loved that these students used Flipgrid to reflect on their visit to Barrow.

Flipgrid. Relax and discuss.

We also had fantastic parent volunteers during the day that helped us as well.  Having these parents seeing how kids are using technology and how we encourage continued connection over the summer was so valuable to our school and library program.

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Finally, we had a great team of student ambassadors to help throughout the day.  These students included my original beta testers as well as members of my student book budget group.  Each student had already created an account in Wandoo and tried it out for themselves.  I loved seeing their leadership as they setup computers, gently nudged peers to stay focused, and problem-solved technical difficulties.

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Hosting this many students in one day in the library was exhausting, but the help of all of these UGA students, parents, and student ambassadors made all the difference in the world.

We closed each session by connecting once again with Lindsey.  She encouraged students to use Wandoo all summer long and each group had a special visit from Winston, the Wandoo Planet mascot.  We all had fun watching Winston’s dance moves and joining in.

After saying goodbye to Lindsey, I showed students how they can continue to connect with our library all summer long by using our digital resources.  I also created a Padlet for them to post to throughout the summer.  Lindsey and Winston are going to add to the Padlet too!

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I also gave students a strongly worded statement that there’s not really an excuse to not access books and digital resources during the summer.  We have an incredible public library system that is within walking distance of most of our students. I hope they will take advantage of our public library’s many resources this summer.

Thank you Evanced Kids for creating a great tool for kids to think about their reading interests and for listening to kids in order to improve your system.  I can’t wait to see what our kids experience this summer!

Student Book Budgets 2012-13 (Part 1)

A snapshot of the form that students used to survey other students

A snapshot of the form that students used to survey other students

Once again, I have reserved a portion of our library budget for complete student control.  I have done this over the past three years and have come to value it so much that I plan to continue and improve upon the process.  So far, this year is proving to be one of the most interesting so far.  In the past, I’ve worked with groups of students as large as 40 and as small as 12.  This year, we have 27 students in grades 3-5 who have agreed to participate in this process.

This year, I created a Google form asking about some reading interests and gauging student interest in being a part of the book budget group.  I emailed the form to all students in the school.  In general, our 3rd-5th graders are the main students who check their email, so those were the students who responded.  Out of about 60 responses, I had about 40 students who were interested in being in the group.  I went through the list and tried to select a mix of boys, girls, grade levels, classrooms, backgrounds, and reading interests.  This narrowed the list to the 27 students.

I then got permission from the students’ teachers to allow them to be in the group.  Next, I blocked out some times on the library calendar.  Here’s the rough outline of what I did/planned to do:

  • 1/25:  Initial meeting with the whole group to lay the foundation of our work and edit the Google form that I started. We also claimed which grade levels we would each survey. This was done at the very beginning of the day when students would have been doing their morning meeting in the classroom.
  • 1/28-2/1:  As soon as students arrived at school, they got their netbooks out and pulled up our Google form.  Then, they surveyed their own class as well as one other grade level that they had chosen.
  • 2/1:  After surveying is done, email the results to all of the students so that they can begin looking at patterns.
  • 2/4, 2/8, & 2/11:  Students will meet in the library during their lunch.  We will narrow down the survey results and determine which specific books and categories of books we want to focus on.  Then, students will begin creating lists of books with our favorite vendors including:  Bound to Stay Bound, Capstone Press, and Follett
  • 2/12:  Finalize the lists and order the books.
  • While we wait on the books to arrive, some students might choose to work on some marketing strategies, but I won’t do this with every student in the group.
  • When the books arrive, schedule a meeting to unpack, stamp the books, and double check the packing slips.
  • Advertise the books on BTV and put them into circulation.
Students pulling up their Google Form to begin roaming the school.

Students pulling up their Google Form to begin roaming the school.

At our initial meeting, students did a great job adding to the form I had already started.  In the form, I asked about specific series of books, genres of books, and created a space for students to list specific books.  This was all based on what students are constantly asking for in the library so there were things like:  The Hunger Games, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, World Records, Rainbow Fairies, Ninjago, Lego, Princesses, etc.  The students decided to add a question about grade level and gender so that we could balance how many boys, girls, and students from different grade levels we surveyed.  They also added their own series and genres that I completely missed.  This is what I love about this participatory aspect.  It’s impossible for one person to know the reading needs of the entire school.  It has to be a collaborative effort.

During the week of 1/28-2/1, students surveyed as many students as possible.  I was amazed that by the end of the week they had surveyed over 400 students, which is almost every student in the school!  This is highest amount of students we have ever been able to survey in this project.  Almost every day, I emailed the students an update on how many students in each grade level we had surveyed.  This helped them focus their time.  I was also amazed by the decision making of many of the students.  They were careful not to disturb a classroom if the teacher had already started a morning meeting or a lesson.  They also came to the library to ask me my thoughts about where they might go next.  In the library, I watched the number of surveys steadily climb in the spreadsheet that Google Forms automatically creates.IMG_1689

On 2/1, I emailed the students the final results so that they can hopefully look over it before we  begin the messy process of making decisions this week.  I’ll do another post about the decision making process and book ordering, but for now here’s what we have to work with.  How would YOU narrow this down?

Prek 42 10%
K 58 14%
First 69 16%
Second 73 17%
Third 46 11%
Fourth 45 11%
Fifth 33 8%

 

Boy 207 49%
Girl 159 37%

 

Superheroes 129 31%
Princesses 92 22%
Graphic Novels (comics) 170 40%
Legos 172 41%
Star Wars 141 34%
Wrestling 96 23%
Ghosts 165 39%
Sports 206 49%
Poetry 124 30%
History 145 35%
Animals 232 55%
Paper airplanes 149 35%
Cars 144 34%
World Records 201 48%
Drawing 197 47%
Mystery 167 40%
TV shows 149 35%
How to 126 30%
Action 159 38%
Scary 177 42%
Myths & Legends 159 38%
Picture books 187 45%
Movies 185 44%

 

Hunger Games 161 39%
Rainbow Fairies 113 27%
Diary of a Wimpy Kid 211 51%
Guinness World Records 168 40%
Ninjago 174 42%
Disney Princesses 87 21%
Sisters Grimm 59 14%
Mo Willems books 90 22%
Captain Underpants 145 35%
Geronimo Stilton 104 25%
Magic Tree House 191 46%
Junie B. Jones 168 40%
Lunch Lady 141 34%
Babymouse 139 33%
Goosebumps 100 24%
Dr. Seuss 190 46%
Fashion Kitty 114 27%
Bad Kitty 142 34%
39 Clues 109 26%
Eragon 73 18%
Bone 111 27%
Genius Files 75 18%
Nancy Drew 95 23%
Corduroy 89 21%
Hardy Boys 114 27%
Percy Jackson 100 24%
Archie Comics 92 22%