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Igniting a passion for reading at Van Meter Schools

Many of today’s students use technology in some way or another, so why not use technology to help young students discover their passion for reading?

That was a question Evanced Solutions answered after creating Wandoo Planet – a free online reading app which asks children ages 6-14 about their interests and then suggests books they might be interested in.

To gauge how the app will be received by students, Evanced Solutions partnered with Van Meter Librarian Shannon McClintock-Miller and her students at Van Meter who will test out the app all day on Friday, April 18, at the Van Meter Community School.

“The people from Wandoo Planet are going to instill that love of reading and writing throughout the day and in the middle of a whole lot of fun, games, and friendship,” McClintock-Miller said. “We can’t wait.”

McClintock-Miller joined forces with Lindsey Hill, reading engagement innovation specialist with Evanced Solutions LLC, via Twitter a few months ago after learning about the project. Hill then reached out to McClintock-Miller to ask if her students would be Beta testers for the website.

“They were so excited and couldn’t wait to help them out,” McClintock-Miller said.

The Wandoo Planet app is similar to applications like Pandora and Netflix, which gets to know the user and their interests. With Wandoo Planet,kids can search from over 12,000 books and movies that spark their interests and then are able to print off the recommended books to find at home, their local library, or bookstore. For each book a student reads, a branch on the Wandoo Tree grows as well as provides nourishment to the animals living in Wandoo Planet. “It’s not a game; It’s an adaptive learning system algorithm so the system gets smarter the more kids that use it,” Hill said. “The kids at Van Meter have been talking with me and giving me feedback on what features they like and what we could do to make it better.

We’ve noticed kids really enjoy the nurturing part of the piece, and the excitement that the kids show when they are using the app.”

Evanced Solutions will visit over 25 states, including Iowa, in their “Banish Boredom” tour – dedicated to bridging the classroom and the library with tools to help students succeed.

“Research shows students between the ages of 7-10 drop-off in reading proficiency in America,” Hill said. “Kids are bored and they often turn to a device so we are trying got meet them where they are at and keep them in a virtual world, yet provide them with the opportunity to read physical books. A lot of schools are focused on outcomes, but we are certain through research and testing that interest will drive frequency.

“Frequency drives proficiency and that will drive the outcome of what students are looking for.”

The free online app is only available on desktop and laptop computers at this time. To become a beta tester for Wandoo Planet, visit http://evancedkids.com/betasignup/. Sign-up for children younger than the age of 13 requires adult assistance.

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