Overdues are just a drag. I don’t charge fines for overdue books but for each class, I have to print out and distribute notices and tell students that they can’t take out another book until they’ve returned or paid to replace their overdues.
Overdues are also inevitable – it’s a very organized child and/or family who never looses or forgets to return their library books. Sadly I am not included in that honourable club and I really admire those that are.
I believe that good organizational skills and attention to responsibilities are traits that will serve students well throughout their academic careers and personal lives and so should be recognized and encouraged.
Six years ago I decided to try something to reward those students who regularly remembered to bring their books back. At the same time, it might just motivate others who just needed a little nudge.
As a result – we still have library cards. When a class is coming in for a visit, I lay them out on the counter by the circulation desk. Students pick them up as they’re coming through to check out their books and they are returned to the file after book exchange.
On the back of the card is a chart. Starting in Grade 1, at the beginning of each month, I stamp their cards if they have had no overdue books in the previous month. (I’ve posted the library card template here.)
Three Month Award
After three, not necessarily consecutive months, the number at the bottom of the grade column goes up by one from the previous year, allowing the student to check out one more book. I tell them they have proven that they are responsible enough to take care of another library book each week. They always cheer for this! They also get a little prize.
All the prizes are purchased with money that I’ve raised through our annual Scholastic Book Fair.
This year, those that have earned three stamps in Grades 1-3 are receiving a ‘Books are Dino-mite’ bookmark, a dino sticker and a mini-dino that grows when placed in water. Grades 4-6 get a new bookmark and chose from 3 different Readers are Leaders pencils.
Six Month Award
After the sixth stamp, they’re given a little bigger prize. For example one choice in the upper elementary will be from posters saved from Pop Star Magazine that I’ve laminated. I’ll also have a set of free posters from the book fair.
At the end of the year, if their entire card is full they are presented with a “Responsible Reader” certificate as well as a prize that I’ve had imprinted with our school name and “Responsible Reader”.
This year’s Grade 6’s are the first to have participated since Grade 1. I may have students who have never had an overdue book! I consider that an incredibly admirable feat of organization and responsibility so those students will be recognized somehow specially at the end of the year.
Monthly Class Award
The monthly class library award was created several decades ago prior to my time at the school. It was dormant for some time but I revived it when I started this program. It recognizes the elementary class with the best record for returning library books during the past month. Our principal or I present it at the monthly assembly and the winning class is always very excited to receive it. To some extent, it is recognition of teachers who are really good at motivating their students with reminders and agenda entries to get their books in. Students take it proudly back to their classroom and display it prominently for the month.
The Kids Love It!
Writing it all out here makes the program seem like a lot of work but it’s not really once it’s set up, and it’s so-very-worth it! The kids love it and it brings a huge positive to one of the two drags of library – the hassle of remembering to return your library books. (The other potential negative is the necessity for quiet but that’s a whole other discussion.)
Students watch the back of their card carefully, are excited when they’ve made each milestone and are disappointed if they miss out on the first stage of awards. Those that do, strive to earn it the following month so we sneakily get to encourage them to hone their organizational skills and give them an extra pat on the back when they succeed.