Because everyone is so busy and tired, it’s easy to say something like this: “If I don’t get my books back, at least I know that they’re in good hands.”
This is the wrong approach! You have to get your books back! But that’s easier said than done.
Here are a few things to do:
1. Start early. May 1 is a good start date. Even though you want your students to read up until the end of the year, it’s a good idea to begin the book-returning process a month early.
2. Have a good circulation system. If you know which books are out, and if your students know which books they have, then getting books back is much easier. It doesn’t matter if you use a computerized system or a simpler paper system. The most important piece is that your system is accurate and dependable. Again, this isn’t easy to do. Some teachers employ student librarians to make sure everything is accurate. Other teachers have more elaborate systems. Whatever you do, it’s worth it to make sure that your check-in / check-out system is strong.
3. Don’t relent. Your students may say, “I returned that book.” Don’t believe them, but not because you don’t trust them. Often students don’t remember that the book is underneath their bed. The key message is that you’re following the records, and the account says that there is a book checked out to the student. It’s up to the student to take care of it.
4. Emphasize the concept of borrowing. Yes, you loaned all your books to your students, and you loved it when they became real readers. But they’re your books, not theirs, and it’s important that the books are ready for your students next year.
5. Take data, make deadlines, and remind often. Publicly display how many books are still out. Give students individualized reports about which books they need to return. Have deadlines throughout May, and after each one, remind students what they need to do. If necessary, call parents.
1. Don’t get angry. By mid- to late-May, you may become frustrated that you’ve reminded a student two or three times to return a book and nothing has happened. Instead of getting angry, have a plan. What are you going to do after the first reminder? the second? the third? Stick to this plan and communicate it to your students.
2. Don’t forget the public library. Make sure your students have a library card. Go to the library with them. Many students fear the library because they think the librarian is going to detain them for outstanding fees. As a result, many don’t have current library cards. At the end of the year, it’s important for you to help students make a transition between your classroom library and the public library. It’s the same thing, really, only bigger. If you help convince students that the public library is a safe place, then they’re much more likely to grow their identity as readers.
3. Don’t wait too long to do book bills. Fill them out a week or two before the end of school. This will give time for students to find the book or come up with a different solution. Often, students don’t begin looking for books until there is a penalty fee attached.
There’s my list. Good luck getting your books back! Do you have other ideas about how to encourage students to return books? If so, please leave them in the comments. Thank you!