Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Bribery… Works Every Time

It’s the end of the year and you’re trying to get the library and textbooks returned. How do you get them back without feeling like a nag? Though you have to face the fact that some books won’t ever return, there are many ways to encourage folks to play along. One of most important ways is to think positive: try “rewarding” those who do before harassing those who don’t. For example:
  • Brownie Party: Have a drawing for the classes that return all their books. Reward them with a party- pizza, brownies. Maybe you could save money by having them bring their school lunches to the library and eating there with you.
  • Class Stars: In a high traffic area, post the names of the teachers (or students) who return their materials. People don’t like to be left out.
  • Library Lollies: Give kids who return their materials a lollipop, etc. when they return their materials. It could also be a trinket. Oriental Trading has cute, inexpensive things.
  • Return One-Get One: Students who return their materials get to choose a free book, magazine or lottery ticket for a door prize.
  • Book Return Countdown: Get the whole school involved. Post a thermometer in the hall. Use construction paper to fill up the thermometer. As books are returned, add more color until the thermometer is full and all materials are returned.
  • Amnesty Day: For those of you who charge late fines, announce an Amnesty Day and excuse fines for one day. Kids will bring them back because they won’t fear the fine.
  • Bring a Can-Feed the Needy: Collect food for the needy. If students bring in dry or canned goods, you can excuse the fine when they return the books. This works especially well in November and December.
  • Collaborate: Work with your PE teachers. Ask them to award extra points for field day if the class has returned all of their books.
  • Little Red Wagon: Go to where they are. Take a little red wagon and go from class to class picking up books.
  • Return Bins: Have a book return outside your secondary library. Sometimes kids just won't take the time to go inside.
  • Lunch Encounters: Go to the lunchroom and have them return books there.
Sadly you have to be realistic. Not all books will come back. Some students just have too many things going on and can’t find their shoes, much less a library book. Some of your students just don’t have the money to pay for lost materials or overdue fines. For those students you may want to try the following options.
  • Payment Plans: One of our Teacher Librarians has her kids bring in a dollar a week until it’s paid off. Little by little students can clear up their fines.
  • Work it Off: Hold students accountable by “hiring” them to work in the library at minimum wage until they pay off their accounts. Talk to them about the cost of the materials and how long they will have to work to replace it. Putting it in real world terms also teaches them a valuable lesson.
  • Replacement: Especially with paperbacks, you might take a different paperback for the one that was lost.
  • Paperwork: In actuality, handing out notices to teachers is rarely effective. They get buried in the bottom of the backpack. It’s more effective to hand a student an overdue notice when the rest of his class is getting to take a book or a prize. His paper can be exchanged for a prize when he clears up his record.
Do the best you can. Know that some loss is the cost of doing business. At some point you should forgive the students and move on. Clean up records after a year or so. Certainly by the time he graduates, his record of losing Brown Bear in Kindergarten should be off his record. Let it go and move on. Focus on the positive.

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