20 Great Ways to Celebrate Library Book Returns

two students with library books

Many thanks to the members of our Learning Librarians Facebook group for sharing great ways to reward and celebrate library book returns, especially at the end of the school year!

Stickers to reward library book returns

  • Stickers: I bought cute vinyl stickers off of SHEIN- I put them in a pocket chart for easy choosing with a sign that says “thanks for helping “stick” books back on the shelves!” In each class I see who is clear, call them to choose a sticker and be sure to mark those who have already picked! (Thank you, Katie Browning!) (Note: you can also purchase stickers from Amazon!)
  • Stickers: I’m using these Demco Stick Together posters as a reward. Each student who returns a book gets a sticker for the mystery poster. It’s been an affordable incentive that everyone is enjoying. It’s taking the rest of the school year to fill this one. They enjoy guessing the picture too. (Thank you, Elisha Robertson!)

Food treats for library book returns

  • Food: “Donut forget to turn in your books!” I do a homeroom donut challenge. One class is chosen at the end of the school year. Every student must have all books, no fines, etc for the homeroom to qualify for the drawing. (Thank you, Jennifer Brown!)
  • Food: I bribe the teachers. For the first grade level to turn in all their books, the teachers get a certificate to the local soda shop. Teachers can be very competitive! One year, I threw a soda party for the classes that brought them all in. I set up tables on their recess, the classes who earned it were let out a little early. It was fun even for me, but some years I don’t have the energy to do it. I think last year I did nothing and had a lot of books not come in, so doing something definitely helps. My sister school makes homemade cookies for each student that brings their book in, a cookie per student. (Thank you, Christi Solomon!)
  • Food: I ask parents to donate popsicles. All of our primary classrooms have freezers. Students who have clear accounts can get a popsicle during library (outside) after the May 5 due date. If they don’t clear their account by their library popsicle day, I deliver to any student who clears their account later (during lunch). It’s easy to keep a record of the few who miss their first opportunity. (Thank you, Shannon Brodie!)
  • Food: Our PTO sponsors a pizza party. ALL classes that returned all of their books were entered and then one class was randomly selected during morning announcements. (Thank you, Gina Marie!)
  • Food: When I was in the intermediate school, I used to make a class party basket with either popcorn or chips with drink boxes or water or the ice pops the teacher can freeze. I put it in a basket from the dollar store and wrapped it in clear cellophane with a bow. I put it in the hall for display… Classes with all their books in by day 1 got 5 tickets into the drawing, day 2 got 4, etc. In the daily announcements, I would have them read off the classes that returned all of their books (optional). I gave the classes a certificate to post on their door that they had 100% of their library books returned. The last day, the principal would draw the name of the winning class, and I would deliver the basket (on a cart!) to the class. This worked because the students and teachers would remind their classmates to return their books or pay for a lost book so that they could be in the contest! I also gave out overdue notices to the teachers so they could cross off the students’ names as they returned their books. (Thank you, Dale Endres!)
  • Food: I have a popcorn popper from a yard sale. I pre-pop and package the day before and let them eat popcorn while I read a book. (Thank you, Jennifer Morrow!)

Raffles to encourage library book returns

  • Raffle: Last year we did a raffle and all the kids who brought back their books got entered into it. The prizes were two large Squishmallows. (Thank you, Ellen Maher!)
  • Raffle: I spend $100 and buy 20 different prizes at Five Below. Students who have no fines or lost books get 10 tickets. I set up the prizes in the media center, and the kids come down on once they get their tickets and put them on the items they want to win. We then draw a few names and prizes for the last week on the morning news. So if students find their books after the drawings started then they still get their 10 tickets. I also make a video of the available prizes and post it for the children to watch so they know what is available. I have done this for a few years and it’s very successful. (Thank you, Amy Ogletree!)
  • Raffle: I’m going to draw maybe 15 names from the collection of kids who have returned all their books by the specified date, and let the winners come pick from my stash of Book Fair prizes- posters, invisible ink pens, and books. (Thank you, Amanda Carrico!)

Free rewards for library book returns

  • Free: Bonus recess or, if that’s a conflict with other grade levels, chalk sketching on sidewalk areas. (Thank you, Carol Fazioli!)
  • Free: I had a bunch of sheets donated to me. The kids LOVE building forts with the tables/chairs/book shelves etc. The classes that turn in all of their books have a fort building day during their regular library time. (Thank you, Megan Loveless!)
  • Free: I usually offer play time in the library with the LEGOs and other maker toys. This serves as a 30 minute break for teachers and a treat for students. (Thank you, Anne Stylianou!)
  • Free: I created a mini golf course around the library at the end of the year for the first class to return their books. It was a great success! (Thank you, Justine Cooper!)
  • Free: Texas Snowball Fight… give each student a piece of paper to wad up on the count of 3 throw them. Let them snowball fight for 5-7 min. They love it! Bonus – do two classes at a time (Thank you, Sara Romine!) You can also buy snowballs on Amazon and reuse them year after year. (Thank you, Aimee Duron!)
  • Free: I can’t give mine food, so I let them vote on an alternative. The choices are movie day, extra recess, board game day or art day. I take suggestions from students as well, as long as it fits the parameters of what I can do. (Thank you, Michelle Trobiano!)

Displays to focus on library book returns

  • Display: I do the certificate to hang outside the classroom and had the class name read on the announcements. You could hear the class cheer at the other end of the hall. I also used Jolly Ranchers, when we could give out candy. (Thank you, Diane Mentzer!)
  • Display: Create a Where’s Waldo themed bulletin board and let students sign it when their books are all returned. (Thank you, Susan Hanlon!) She tied this bulletin board in with this free Book Wrangler scavenger hunt that her classes did when they were no longer checking out library books.

Ready for Summer Reading?

If your library books are returned, and you’re ready to promote summer reading, I’d love for you to check out my Summer Reading Challenges! I’ve just updated the book lists and made these editable. Happy reading!

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