Not Check Out a Book? Really?

Dear Dr. Laura,


I can’t believe this is actually happening in my very own library! But, what do you do with students who do not want to check out a book?


Signed, Shocked Librarian


Dear Shocked Librarian,


I’m sure it is shocking to think that someone actually doesn’t want to check out a book from the beautiful library you have worked so hard to get ready for your students and teachers. I’m sure your mind went straight to thinking they don’t like to read or they’re being stubborn. But, there are actually a number of reasons they may not want to check out a book. Here’s some reasons I’ve come across in my experience:

  1. The student doesn't like to read or isn’t a strong reader.

  2. The student has lost/damaged multiple books and his parents have threatened him to not check any more out because they can’t afford to pay for any more lost books.

  3. The student is homeless and has no where to store a book safely.

  4. The student knows her family is moving soon and she doesn’t want to accidentally end up moving with a book that belongs to the school.

  5. The student has books at home or in the classroom collection or on an e-reader device they are already reading.

  6. The student “just can't find any good books”.


So what can you do to still promote reading to students who fit in to anyone of those scenarios? Afterall, that is one of your priorities. Librarians use their library resources to promote reading. You do want students to have as much access to books as possible. Let’s follow after the heart of Kate DiCamillo who reportedly said, “Reading should not be presented to children as a chore, a duty. It should be offered as a gift.” So, first let’s consider book promotion ideas.

  • Do you have to give a grade? Believe it not, some librarians do give grades. Explain to the student that just as they participate in PE or music class, they have to participate in the same way for library class. So, if they want participation points/grade, they need to check out a book. Not necessarily a positive way to encourage book checkout, but grades matter.

  • Be sure you have some good book displays that rotate high interest or themed books. Make displays on top of your lower shelving units and inside the empty space of your taller bookshelves. Make displays in your window areas. Do you have endcaps like some retail stores? Add displays there. Make tabletop displays. Display around your circulation desk. Turn your whole library space into a giant book commercial zone!

  • Consider creating an enticing reading incentive program like a Genre BINGO so everyone will want to check out books. I have seen fun incentives like an afternoon at a local Boys and Girls Club.

  • I saw a high school that allowed students to draw stars in the front endpapers. The students would “star” the books they highly recommended so another student who picked up the book would know it was an awesome book from a student’s perspective. Eventually this grew to where the librarian set aside an entire section of large bookshelves to showcase all of the star reviewed books. This was a very popular section of her library.

  • Memorize/display some great quotes about what famous people say about reading:

  • - “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” – Dr. Seuss

  • - “If we encounter a man of rare intellect, we should ask him what books he reads.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

  • - “If you don’t like to read, you haven’t found the right book.” – J.K. Rowling


Next, let’s move on to handling the scenarios presented earlier. Maybe you could keep a little journal so you can find out if this is a habit for the particular student or possibly it is just a one time thing. Do take the time to personally ask them what’s going on. You might be surprised at the reason they give. Check your list again next time the class comes to the library and see if the student is still not checking out a book.


Meanwhile, let’s take a look at each scenario.

  1. Scenario 1 - The student doesn't like to read or isn’t a strong reader. So give that student your undivided attention. Let them know you are there for them and want to find something that is a good match for their interests. That match may end up being a children’s magazine, a paperback book of a TV show you picked up at the most recent book fair, a high-low series, or anything else that comes up in your conversation.

  2. Scenario 2: The student has lost/damaged multiple books and his parents have threatened him to not check any more out because they can’t afford to pay for any more lost books. Have a private conversation with the child that you have some special items that may be just the kind of thing they can borrow for a while. Keep a supply of magazines, paperback books you picked up at the most recent book fair, or other books you may have weeded. Offer these to the student as an alternative. Start a book swap display or Little Free Library (LFLs) where students can bring in books from their homes for others to use. Little Free Libraries are used heavily in my part of Texas where our 430,000 economically disadvantaged student population is 86% low SES. Our librarians are setting up LFLs just for these kinds of purposes.

  3. Scenario 3: The student is homeless and has no where to store a book safely. (Repeat of scenario 2 answer.) Have a private conversation with the child that you have some special items that may be just the kind of thing they can borrow for a while. Keep a supply of magazines, paperback books you picked up at the most recent book fair, or other books you may have weeded. Offer these to the student as an alternative. Start a book swap display or Little Free Library (LFLs) where students can bring in books from their homes for others to use. Little Free Libraries are used heavily in my part of Texas where our 430,000 economically disadvantaged student population is 86% low ses. Our librarians are setting up LFLs just for these kinds of purposes.

  4. Scenario 4: The student knows her family is moving soon and she doesn’t want to accidentally end up moving with a book that belongs to the school. We have a very high mobility rate where I live. Families move monthly to wherever the next lowest advertised rent is. (Repeat of scenario 2 answer.) Have a private conversation with the child that you have some special items that may be just the kind of thing they can borrow for a while. Keep a supply of magazines, paperback books you picked up at the most recent book fair, or other books you may have weeded. Offer these to the student as an alternative. Start a book swap display or Little Free Library (LFLs) where students can bring in books from their homes for others to use. Little Free Libraries are used heavily in my part of Texas where our 430,000 economically disadvantaged student population is 86% low ses. Our librarians are setting up LFLs just for these kinds of purposes.

  5. Scenario 5: The student has books at home or in the classroom collection or on an e-reader device they are already reading. Great! Do some digging and ask them to put some of their favorite titles in your suggestion box. Or maybe they can help you build a display that ties in to what they are currently reading. They may just happen to find a book in your collection that piques their interest.

  6. Scenario 6: The student “just can't find any good books”. Dig in for some details. Get to know your readers.

  • Reluctant Reader- Do a reader’s advisory to help them find something.

  • Average Reader - Ask them to “shop” from the displays you have set up. I used to tell my students these are my library commercials where I am showing them the latest and greatest books I have.

  • Avid Reader - Talk to them about what they’re currently reading. They may already have a great book! Maybe they can start some recommended reading lists for you to advertise with the students.

So, shocked librarian, there's more to this than meets the eye. Don’t go with any assumptions about why the student isn’t reading. WIth a little digging and prodding, you may just end up with a new reading buddy after all.


Talk to you next time!

Dr. Laura


The Librarian Influencer of the week is Connie Harrison. Follow her at:

Blog of Lesson Plans: http://madamepince.edublogs.org/

Email: connie.harrison@hotmail.com

Facebook: Connie Parker Harrison https://www.facebook.com/connieparkerharrison

Podcast Interview: http://laurasheneman.libsyn.com/find-a-mentor-with-connie-harrison

Laura Sheneman, EdD, MLS

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