Tuesday, March 8, 2011


Question -  Why didn’t you bring your library book back?
Answer -  My Mom didn’t put it in my backpack.

This is a conversation I have had many times.  I have tried many different ways to encourage responsible behavior.  One strategy I stumbled upon last year, was writing a friendly letter.  I started having the students write a letter home telling about their overdue book.  They need to bring the letter back with a parents’ signature on it.  Usually it comes back with the book.

One youngster and I had the following discussion.

“You need to write a letter to your family about your over due library book.”

“I know where it is.”

“That’s good.  Where is it?”

“In my bedroom.”

“Ok, write a letter to your parents, tell them where you think it is.  Ask them to help you remember to bring it to library.”

“I wrote a letter last week.”

“Did you bring the book back to the library?”

“No, but I know where it is.”

“Good.  You need to bring it back.  In the meantime write another letter.”

“I don’t need to, my first letter is in my desk.”

I smile, “Since the book hasn’t been returned you still need to write a letter home.  Go get started.”

I use this strategy with my 3rd – 6th graders.  They have to bring the letters to me to check before they go home.  I check them and send them back to make any needed corrections.

I figure they are learning some valuable skills. 1.  They are being held accountable for their missing books.  2.  They are learning how to write a friendly letter.  3.  They are getting the opportunity to experience natural consequences.  4.  They are gainfully employed and do not have time to disturb the the other students who are enjoying the privilege of reading.

I knew this strategy was a keeper when I had a young man finally return his books.  They had been missing quite a while before I implemented the letter writing policy.  I asked him what finally motivated him to return his library books.  He glared at me.

“I got tired of writing those “blank” “blank” letters!”

Yup, I knew then this was a keeper!


  1. Too funny! I may have to try that one with my students. When they tell me their mother forgot, I always remind them that their mother did not forget. Their mother did not take the book out of the library and is not responsible for it. This reminds me of a teacher I work with. She tells them that if there is something they must let her know during guided reading groups, they need to leave her a note on her desk. The kindergarten notes she has shared with us have been priceless.

  2. Great post! I love the story you tell about the student who tried to get out of writing the letter. Kids are priceless!

  3. What a good idea! The "my mom forgot" response always drove me crazy. Eventually they will learn some responsibility (we hope).

  4. Love the captured conversation! It brings us right into the scene--a scene most teachers of any age have experienced. Good for you for finding a way to get those books back!

  5. What a wonderful idea. Persistence always pays off with kiddos. The "my mom forgot it" excuse never works for me. What a great way to give them back the responsibility. Very funny post too.

  6. When they say my Mom forgot to put it in my backpack. I usually remind them that their Mom didn't check out the book.

  7. I love the way you began this post, and captured the student's knee- jerk response: my mom...

  8. You used a wonderful grabber lead that made me want to read on. Your ending made me chuckle as well. :)MaryHelen


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