Pete the Cat teaches responsibility

Hi friends!

I have a dream, my librarian friends. Not quite as noble as Martin Luther King Junior’s dream, but a dream nonetheless. My dream is that one day, students will remember to return their library books on library day. I want them to develop a habit of responsibility, and I don’t want the books to be lost.

Here’s what I’m doing this year to help make that dream a reality.

I drew a picture of Pete the Cat wearing his backpack (because that’s where he keeps his library books when he’s not reading them). I copied it twice for each kindergarten and first grade teacher. I colored one copy and cut it into 5 pieces (head, body, front legs, back legs, tail), and put those pieces into the zipper bag.

I told every kinder and first grade class that each time EVERY boy and girl brings their library books back on library day, we will add a part to Pete the Cat. When Pete the Cat is completely covered, we will have a Pete the Cat surprise in the library! For the whole class!

So that’s what we’ve been doing. When EVERY boy and girl returns their library book, we glue a colored piece onto Pete the Cat and celebrate the happy occasion.

I’m happy to say that we’ve had three Pete the Cat surprises in the library. For our surprise, we have a 30-minute party. I tell students the Gingerbread Pete the Cat story that you can find here at Miss Sarah’s Storytime. Each student makes a Gingerbread Pete with foam, pipe cleaners and pom poms.

 We dance along with the dancing Pete the Cat doll in this video.

And I give the students two gingerbread cookies in a zipper bag to take with them, because we keep running out of time for snack at our Pete parties.

We’ve had fun celebrations. Those three classes are now trying to color in Clifford, and I’m planning a Clifford the Big Red Dog party (Pinterest!).

I’m celebrating their success, but at the same time, I’m sad for the other classes, especially the two first grade classes who have NEVER had everyone turn in their book on library day. This whole year!

So…what’s your secret? How do you encourage your students to return their books on time? Have you found something that works?

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      1. I have a few fifth grade girls who help me with library tasks like that when they stay in from recess or finish their work early. It’s a constant need in our library!

    1. i am in a K-2 building and this year, ONE TIME, ONE CLASS had all their books in on time. ARGH!!!! I love your Pete the Cat motivator, but I don’t think even Pete the Cat can work a miracle. At my old school (K-4) Fridays were the overdue report day and for each class that had NO overdue books, we placed a fun note and a bag of microwave popcorn in their teacher’s mailbox. Of course, to have a celebration, a class had to have several bags, not just one, so it was up to the teacher to decide when the party was. It was a nice low-key way to promote responsibility without the teachers getting too competitive (which had been a problem).

      1. I agree with you, Shelly, that partnering with the classroom teacher is key. I think that’s part of what has made this work, is that some teachers (apparently not all) are motivated by seeing their name on the board. Sometimes it’s just hard to overcome the lack of organization at home.

    2. A few years ago at our local conference (MSLA) another librarian talked about a ROBOT award (Return Our Books On Time)…and I took off with the idea the following year. We have 3 ROBOT trophies that can be awarded on any given week to the class that returns ALL thier library books on library day. The next morning it is announced during morning announcements and it is traked on a chart.

      It actally keeps the classroom teachers on top of things…some of them are pretty competative!!! To see the robot awards on our school website at Manomet Elementary and then library.

      Thank you for sharing all your great ideas!!!!
      Anne-Marie Ross
      Library Media Specialist
      Manomet & Indian Brook Elementary Schools
      Plymouth, MA

      1. Thanks for sharing that, Anne-Marie! I think I saw a blog post on the ROBOT idea, and adapted it down for the little ones. I like the trophies and the mention on the morning announcements. Your trophies look great! We definitely need to involve the classroom teachers to help us with the reminders!

      2. I love the idea of ROBOT trophies. I know many teachers and kids who would love the competition. How do you handle older students who want more time to read their books? Are they required to bring in their books for renewal in order for their class to win a trophy?

      3. Good questions, Amy. I know that I require students to bring in their books to renew them. I want to make sure they still know where the book is. But a renewal counts the same as a return for any anti-overdue contest, as far as I’m concerned.

    3. Hi All~

      We do the exact same thing that Cari does for our R-O-B-O-T award. If you renew, and have the book with you…it is the same as checking out a new book. I will say, it is pretty funny to see how the classroom teachers get competative…at least encouraging their class that they want to “win”! It works….and good news…no parent complaints!!!!

      Anne-Marie Ross
      Library Media Speciliast
      Manomet & Indian Brook Elementary Schools
      Plymouth, MA

    4. I admit that if there are ‘sides’ on this issue, I’m on the other one. To me, books are ‘due’ when you’re done reading them. I guess because we do so much open circulation and I see my Kinders at many times outside of their scheduled class that I don’t care if they are returned on the days they have class (which is only 3 weeks out of 9). But, I LOVE the idea of rewarding a class if they don’t have any overdue books. And that probably makes no sense. I set my due date for three weeks out because I don’t care about when they are returned and don’t want to be running notices every week for books that will be returned soon regardless of a note. But I could spot check once a month and if a class doesn’t have any overdue books then that might work. I do get concerned with very very late books because they might be lost. So cool that your kids are excited about showing off their responsibility! It’s super important to help them build a routine of getting books returned to the library. Some of my kids could use this as individuals (which might be an idea…). Love it!

      1. Carolyn, I certainly understand your perspective. Our school is in a lower middle class neighborhood, and the students often don’t have much organizational help at home. I have had library books chewed by dogs, cats, bugs, and rats. So we’re trying to teach our students some good habits. When you finish reading your library book, put it in your backpack. Every time. On library day (once a week for my kinders), bring your book to the library to either turn it in or re-check it. I don’t charge overdue fines at all. I do want to help our students learn some organizational skills that will help them with all of life, not just the library. Plus it gives me an excuse to have a Pete the Cat party in the library!

    5. I love these ideas! It might work to do this with some of my older grades. For kindergarten, I tell them that if they have brought their book back on time, they have earned a link in the chain. I give them a little note that proclaims I Returned My Library Book on Time! and I keep track of how many links that each class earns each week (I have 5 kindergarten classes). I then have different colored bookworm faces for each class, with chain link bodies that grow each week. At the end of the school year, the class with the longest bookworm body has earned a party. The other classes have the same party, just not the snacks. It helps them to have the visual to watch each week and they get so excited when they know they have earned a link for the week!

      1. Thanks for sharing that, Anonymous! Sometimes the competitive aspect really motivates the teachers, doesn’t it? I would love to see a photo of your bookworms!

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