Well, the first thing I think we need to tell ourselves is to get over it. Yep, I said it, and yep, it goes against everything most of us hold dear. But, kids are going to lose and damage books. It is the very nature of a library collection to be ever-changing. And it is the very nature of kids to lose stuff, especially kids that are living in tough situations. I know these examples are far from the norm, but I have had students lose library books because their family was evicted and all of their stuff was thrown out on the street. Another child was taken into child protective custody and, of course, didn’t have time to grab her favorite teddy, much less her library books. One student this year told me his library books were blown to smithereens when his mom’s car caught on fire. I believed him, too! Like I said before, these are not normal examples, but we should keep them in mind and remember that responsibility is not always the first thing on our students’ minds.
In order to have our students learn responsibility, we must teach them how to be responsible and give them support in this area. At the beginning of every year, I teach my students that the safest place to keep their library book is in their backpack. We review all of the reasons why to not leave books on their book shelf, their bed, their dining room table, etc. We repeat the phrase (with hand motions), “Read, read, read, read, read… put it in your backpack!”
I am considering using baggies next year for them to keep their books in within their backpack.
I have also written a song about keeping their books in their backpack… Anything to help them remember! It is to the tune of “If You’re Happy and You Know It” and it goes like this: “If you want to keep your books safe, zip them up. ** If you want to keep your books safe, zip them up! ** You can keep them safe and dry, keep them safe and you won’t cry. You can check more books out if you zip these up!**” I remind them that if they have their library books in their backpack, they can read them whenever they are at home or at school, and they will always have them to return on library day since they bring their backpack to school every day! If they still have trouble getting their books returned, I will send home a reminder bracelet (or put it on the loop of their backpack). These are attached.
Towards the end of the year we are trying to collect all of the books. This is a great time to make responsibility into a competition to add a little fun. Students could compete against teachers or grade level against grade level. Students should earn at least recognition for their responsibility, if not a reward! This year, I made a handy little chart that I show the students every morning so they see how many books they still need to return.
I am trying something new this year as I am wrapping up the year and trying to get all of the books returned. I am giving the students who have lost library books a choice. If all else fails and the books are still gone, students should be required to pay for or replace them in order to learn responsibility. We know that not every family is going to be able (or willing) to pay for lost books. So our parents are given a choice between paying in full, paying a portion, replacing the books, donating a gently used book, or donating food for our Second Harvest pantry. I sent home a parent letter that is attached. Feel free to use it or tweak it as needed!
Remember that we want the students (and parents) to associate reading and learning with fun! We want to build relationships, not damage them! And as Allison Barney from Limitless Libraries so succinctly put it, “we are here to create access, not restrictions.”
Happy book hunting!