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!