Solving the Disappearing Book Epidemic
Y'all, the struggle is real when it comes to keeping track of my library books, and I know I am not the only one feeling this.
My books are my prized possessions (cue creepy my precious voice from Lord of the Rings). I have used my own money (luckily we have an AWESOME PTA that reimburses us for a certain amount of instructional supplies), begged for donations, crowdfunded using Go Fund Me and Donors Choose, and poured through boxes of books other teachers are discarding. I want my students to have plenty of choices, filled with diverse characters, and all of genres! That way, they can never tell me, "I can't find a book I like".
But Then the Struggles Begin
These are my top three struggles with books, they all relate to books getting lost, misplaced, or just plain taken.
1. They Take and They Take and They Never Return
Sound familiar? I am not sure when it was decided that elementary students need desks, but I hate those desk baskets with a passion. We use book bins in our cubbies, but somehow even without the excuse of the black hole that is their desk basket, students have this crazy habit of never returning books and just hoarding them. It then takes me forever to gather all the books, and sort them back into the library. And oh, speaking of sorting.
2. Organizational MayhemLet me just say, my library is as organized as it can be. I personally don't like to organize my books by level; I prefer to organize by genre. Every single book bin has a label I made. I try to sort the books as specifically as I can, for organizational reasons and because I want students to notice and have conversations about which bin they seem to be pulling books from, what genre that means they are enjoying, or what author/series is becoming their favorite, etc. If chapter books cannot be classified into a labeled bin, they're on the bottom shelf. If fiction or nonfiction trade books cannot be classified into a labeled bin, they just go in the bigger nonfiction or fiction baskets. Then, I have given many of the genre baskets stickers that match the books that go inside that basket to further assist students when they return their books. If students STILL aren't sure where to put their books in the library when they are done, they can even just put it in the book return basket that I sort at the end of the day. But, somehow, even with all of this in place, books end up in the wrong baskets all the time, to the point that I think that the book is lost.
3.Reading the Same Book at Home/School
Teaching third grade, many students in my classroom are reading chapter books. It makes sense for them to be reading the same book at home for homework. But as the students put that book in their back pack, it is like a slow motion moment during a scary movie, when the actor makes a fatal mistake and you're shouting at the screen, because you know that book is going to get squished, folded, potentially wet or torn, and there is a 50% chance you never see it again (okay a little dramatic I know but hey I hate losing books). So do you not let the kids take books home? What if they don't have books there to read? What if they start reading a different book and get the two confused? What if they just don't read at all. It is a lose lose (until you read my solutions)
Now, before I get to my solutions, I know what some of you are thinking, "if you teach library procedures you should not have these problems." But here is the thing, I do. And we don't have any problems for the first month, or second month...but slowly as my responsibilities pile on, my ability/time to monitor the library disappears. Could I make it a student job? Sure. But, I honestly don't love giving students time consuming jobs. I think that takes away from time they could be working on academic tasks. I want a systems that minimizes the daily work/time required for both students and myself.
How I am Solving these Problems
This is a free website that you can scan or manually enter all of your books into! So yes, it takes a good chunk of time to set up, but after that hurdly, you will be very happy you did! Students can check out books using an ipad or a computer. I set up a chromebook in the corner of my library, got a scanning gun off Amazon (kids are obsessed with this), and the check out station is good to go! All the students have to do is click their name, if they are checking out or returning, and find the book, and they are done!
What this Solves:
-I can see how many books students have checked out
-I can see who has which book if one goes missing
-If a book is in the wrong place in the library, I can see who had it last and reteach this student what to do if they do not know where a book goes!
Take Home Book Kits & Contract
BookSource ensures I know who is the last to have a book if it goes missing, however the problems caused from letting books go home with students don't stop there. That is why I decided to make a Take Home Book Kit & Contract for my students. First, I send home the contract that explains the need for this agreement, and the expectations for when students take books home. That way the parents, the students, and I, are all on the same page. Then, I put the books in these big envelopes, it is not a fool-proof method, but it does protect the books more than if they were just in their backpacks. Lastly, I can send home discussion prompts for parents to use with students! Parents ask me all the time what else they can do with their child other than have them read and then tell them about it. They are the types of questions that will help promote deeper comprehension, as well as a few lower level questions to get them started!
Well, that is the deal with the cure for my classroom library book epidemic folks!
Lauren Mary Medlin
Take Home Book Kit here