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Reviewing a children's book collection is a great way to see what children are reading.  It can be a great deal of fun because as some books "jumped off the shelf."  Often, today's children are still enjoying the same books that that their older siblings, parents, or even grandparents read.  

By observing how old books are and how they were worn (typical user wear patterns, not abuse or neglect), it is possible to get an idea for which books are being used.  In many collections, certain book represent the titles that circulate the most

With today's LMC computerized catalog and circulation systems (such as Winnebago), it is easy to create reports of book titles and use. She says that she had never done this before.  Browsing the shelves and talking to teachers, the LMS, and staff is helpful, looking at the actual data is fascinating.  This would be where I would start assessing student usage and needs in a school library media center.

Informal recollections of what students check out cab be influenced by perceptions of what has circulated in the past and expectations about student usage and needs. Clearly, to the LMS, an automated database of how each book circulates is a powerful source of objective, quantifiable data that should be considered when assessing how children's literature in a library circulates.

Of course, circulation statistics do not tell the full story, especially in a school LMC. Many books, especially nonfiction, are there to support the curriculum. While students may heavily use these books, they may not circulate because they are pulled from circulation for classes to use for specific projects. To better understand how these books are used, library media specialists must keep track of the needs of classroom teachers for specific types of resources and monitor how often those resources are requested. 

For example, if 3rd grader students do a research project on Native American Indians, the books and resources for that unit must be as fully up-to-date as the curriculum demands. These nonfiction books are pulled from circulation when the 3rd graders to those projects and are set on special carts. They are available and heavily used by those students during that unit. 

While other teachers and students have access to those resources the rest of the school year, typically, resources that are utilized for specific curricular projects do not widely circulate.  It might even be important to not allow those books to be checked out if they are not likely to be returned by the time they are needed for a project.  

This means that such items do not show up as circulating in reports, however, they are an important part of the overall collection and are needed to support the school's curriculum.  Many circulation systems allow a special check-out code to be established so that those books can be inputted into the system when they are pulled for specific units.  This can be an important strategy to monitor collection usage and document user needs.

Analysis of Circulation

Most Circulated Children's Books, in a Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin, Public School.  

As the community assessment for Fort Atkinson indicates, this small town, in many ways, is fairly typical of many Wisconsin school districts.  The following are some of the books that students frequently check out at one of the elementary schools.  This listing does not represent a ranking - it merely identifies the books that, relative to the rest of the titles in that section of the collection, circulate significantly more than the "average" typical book. 

Leveled Readers 

bulletWe Are Best Friends (Aliki)
bulletBear's Bargain (Frank Asch)
bulletThe Very Busy Spider (Eric Carle)
bulletThe Very Hungry Spider (Eric Carle)
bulletDo You Want to Be My Friend? (Eric Carle)
bulletHave You Seen My Cat? (Eric Carle)
bulletJillian Jiggs (Phoebe Gilman)
bulletBrown Bear (Bill Martin
bulletThe Cat in the Hat (Dr. Seuss) - the most popular Seuss book
bulletHop on Pop (Dr. Seuss)
bulletThe Berestain Bears' Nursery Tales (Sam Berestain)
bulletBears on Wheels (Stan Berestain)
bulletThe Bike Lesson (Stan Berestain)
bulletSpot's Birthday Party (Eric Hill)
bulletWhere's Spot (Eric Hill)

Easy Readers

bulletDanny the Dinosaur (Syd Hoff)
bulletWhere the Wild Things Are (Maurice Sendak)
bulletThe Go Around Dollar (Adams/Zarins)
bulletYou Think its Fun to be a Clown (Adler/Cruz)
bulletWhere's My Teddy (Alborough)
bulletThe Secret of Mr. Weird (Alan)
bulletBenjamin's 365 Birthdays (Barret)
bulletThe Pain and the Great (Judy Blume)
bulletI Know I'm a Witch (David Adler)
bulletThe Foot Book (Dr. Seuss)
bulletHappy Birthday to You! (Dr. Seuss)
bulletHorton Hatches the Egg (Dr. Seuss)
bulletHow the Grinch Stole Christmas (Dr. Seuss)
bulletThe Lorax (Dr. Seuss)
bulletThe Sneetches and Other Stories (Sr. Seuss)
bulletThe Dragon and the Mouse (Stephen Timm)
bulletThe Ball, the Book, and the Drum (Troll Morgan)
bulletThe Halloween Costume Party (Ronald Wegen)
bulletThe Berenstain Bears and the Big Road Race (Sam Berestain)
bulletThe Berenstain Bear's Science Fair (Sam Berestain) the most popular of this series
bulletClifford's Puppy Days (Norman Bridwell)
bulletClifford, the Small Red Puppy (Norman Bridwell)
bulletClifford's Halloween (Norman Bridwell)
bulletBig Mammas (Donald Crews)
bulletFreight Train (Donald Crews)
bulletSchool Bus (Donald Crews)
bulletTruck (Donald Crews)
bulletSail Boat (Donald Crews)
bulletTom (Tomie dePaola)
bulletStrega Nona (Tomie dePaola)
bulletBig Anthony (Tomie dePaola)
bulletMagic School Bus (Cole/Degen)
bulletThe Munch Bunch (various titles)
bulletMagic School Bus (Cole/Degen)
bulletALL Disney books
bulletAmelia Bedilia (Perish/Siebel)

Intermediate/Chapter Books

Note: that when books are in series, the circulation of the entire set circulates widely as students want to read more by that author. Typically, when a series of books that is read by students has more than 4 books, the entire series becomes extremely popular).

bulletAmerican Girl Collection (series)
bulletBailey School Kids (series, by Dadey)
bulletPee Wee Scouts (series, by Delton)
bulletPolk Street School (series, by Cuff)
bulletJunie B. Jones (series, by Park)
bulletMagic Attic Club (series, by Osbourne)
bulletMagic Tree House (series, by Osbourne)
bulletNate the Great (series, Sharmat)

Fiction (Classic)

bulletHeidi (Spyri)
bulletJourney to the Center of the Earth (Verne)
bulletThe Prince and the Pauper (Twain)
bullet20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (Vern)
bulletCaptain Courageous (Kipling)
bulletThe Time Machine (Wells)
bulletDavid Copperfield (Dickens)
bulletTale of 2 Cities (Dickens)
bulletDr. Jeckle and Mr. Hyde (Stevenson)
bulletGreat Expectations (Dickens)
bulletThe Last Journey of the Mohicans (Coops)
bulletThe Jungle Book (Kipling)
bulletAdventures of Sherlock Holmes (Doyle)
bulletThe Count of Monte Cristo (Dulmas)
bulletOliver Twist (Dickens)
bulletThe Mutiny on Board HMS Bounty (Bligh)
bulletHuckleberry Finn (Twain)


Note: that when books are in series, the circulation of the entire set circulates widely as students want to read more by that author. Typically, when a series of books that is read by students has more than 4 books, the entire series becomes extremely popular).

bulletHarry Potter series (Rowling)
bulletMrs. Piggly Wiggly series (MacDonald)
bulletBaby Sitters Club series (Martin
bulletGoosebumps series (Stine)
bulletBoxcar Children (Warner)
bulletLaura Ingles Wilder series
bulletJudy Blum series
bulletBetty Byars series
bulletMatt Christopher series
bulletBeverly Cleary series


Note:  According to the circulation records, sports, animal books, drawing books, and sports cars/motorcycle books are the most circulated nonfiction books.  This is only half of the story.  The value of much of a non-fiction collection in a school library media center, however, needs to also consider how books are used to support the curriculum


bulletGreen bay Packers (Ryan Pat)
bulletMinnesota Vikings (Steve Putts)
bulletKart Racing (Sylvia Wilkinson)

Animal Books

bulletSnakes (Sylvia Johnson)
bulletThe Whitetail Deer (Mark Ahlstrom)
bulletRabbits (Meredith Switzer)
bulletJaguar, the King of the Cats (Linda Craven)
bulletYour World of Pets (Susan McGrath)
bulletThe Love of Horses (Anne Alock)
bulletThe Love of Ponies (Anne Alock)
bulletPuppies (Judith Rinard)
bulletCats (Pam Jameson)


Note: Craft and other art books do not circulate much but support the curriculum. Many of these books have seasonal themes, so they are used extensively at that time and then not again for the rest of the year

bulletDraw 50 Airplanes, aircraft, & Spacecraft (Lee Ames)
bulletDraw 50 Buildings and Other Structures (Lee Ames)
bulletDraw 50 Cars, Trucks, & Motorcycles (Lee Ames)

Sports Cars/Motorcycles

bulletFerrari (Shirley Haines)
bulletLamborghini (Shirley Haines)
bulletMercedes (Holly Heins)
bulletPorsche (Shirley Haines)
bulletLow Rider Mama (Ed Radlaver)
bulletCycles (H.R. Shaffer)
bulletTrans Am (Sylvia Wiskinson)

Nonfictions Books That Support the Curriculum

The nonfiction books in a school library play a major role in supporting the rest of the school's curriculum. How these books circulate is not really important.  The library media specialist needs to monitor how these books are used in the LMC and classrooms to support core subject areas. 

The following subject headings and Dewey classifications are used to supplement classroom texts and provide resources for student projects. The order on this list does not indicate relative use - just that the books are pulled to support classroom activities.

bulletDinosaurs (560-567.98)
bulletShell Life (592-594.4)
bulletSpiders (595-595.7)
bulletInsects (595.7)
bulletBee - Moth - Butterfly (595.799)
bulletSharks (597)
bulletFrogs (597.3)
bulletReptiles - Snakes (597.5-597.98)
bulletBirds (598)
bulletGeese - Ducks, Geese - Owls (598.2-599.4)
bulletMammals (599 - 599.097)
bulletMice - Rabbit - Squirrel - Bat (599.2-599.4)
bulletWhale, Dolphin (599.5)
bulletElephant (599.6-599.72)
bulletDeer, Camel (599.73)
bulletSeal, Walrus, Bear, Wolf (599.74-599.78)
bulletMonkey (599.8-599.88)
bulletSpace (629.4-629.8)
bulletHorses (636.1)
bulletPets (636.2-636.6)
bulletDogs (636.7)
bulletCats (636.8)
bulletCircus (791.8-791.9)
bulletRodeo (791.8-791.9)
bulletMagic (793.7)
bulletBowling (794.1-796)
bulletBasketball (796.32)
bulletVolleyball (796.32)
bulletFootball (796.33)
bulletSoccer - Golf - Tennis (796.334-796.352)
bulletBaseball (796.357)
bulletGymnastics (796.4)
bulletCamping (796.5-796.54)
bulletBicycles (796.6)
bulletRacing (796.7)
bulletKarate/Wrestling (796.8)
bulletHockey - Ice Skating (796.9-796.963)
bulletWater Sports - Fishing (797 - 799.3)

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