I bribe students to return their library books and am looking for a better idea

In the middle of June every year a talented colleague and her students make hundreds of incredibly delicious ginger cookies and banana bread for me to bribe students to return their library books before the end of the school year. “Cookie Day” is presented as a class community activity, where students are expected to help each other remember to bring their books in. The entire class must have their books returned by the designated date in order to qualify for a cookie or slice of banana bread each.

In the last couple of library classes we talk a lot about the difference between offering help and harassment. Individuals and entire classes can be disqualified if the latter is detected.

I’ve been doing this for my 13 years at the school as a hold-over from my predecessor’s programming. This year was the least successful yet and I am looking for new ideas.

I had 4 out of 11 classes qualify. The Grade 5/6 split had all their books returned or paid-for the day before the deadline. A primary class received their cookies because extenuating circumstances were considered with the one child whose book was not returned. The other two classes were the Grade 11’s & 12’s who had very little free-reading material checked out. (Text books are not due until the date of the final exam.)

I’m not silly enough to believe that the treat itself is sufficient motivation. It is meant as a symbol. The program is meant to be a positive way to get the books back, as opposed to nagging in all its various forms.

Click to link to Image by Carmyarmyofme on Flickr

Homeroom teachers are an essential part of the equation as the ‘mayor’ of their classroom community. They must be willing to help motivate their students and track their progress each day. Teachers in successful classes go through the list each day with their students and help students come up with strategies. “Would you like someone to phone you tomorrow morning?” “Could someone help you look for it?” Sometimes it means they must call parents to increase the chance of success, especially if the item appears to be lost. If agendas are being used, teachers ensure that the student writes a reminder in it each day until their book is returned.

However there are a million and one things for teachers to be thinking about and doing at all times and especially this time of year. I would really appreciate hearing about it in the comments if anyone out there has a better plan, especially one that does not place such a demand on teachers.

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