When I was a beginning preschool teacher, one thing that surprised me was how quickly the books in my three-year-old classroom library would get shred to pieces. I'd find the covers torn off, pages ripped out, crayon scribbles everywhere, even *gasp* footprints inside! As a total book nerd, this was cause for DRASTIC MEASURES! I wanted my students to learn to respect and care for our precious pages. Soon I learned these quick steps for protecting my library and the books within:
Make a Book Repair Kit: Get a small plastic tub or box- I used a pencil box like this one (affiliate)- and fill it with as many items as you'd like to fix torn or marked books. I put some clear packing tape, scotch tape, a glue stick, and an eraser) Label the box and keep it on a shelf that the students can reach.
Form a Book Protection Squad: During your morning meeting or circle time, show your students your "very special kit"- and let them know that only people in the Book Protection Squad are able to touch it. Explain that it's the job of people in the Book Protection Squad to protect and fix the books in the library. Then, ask for volunteers to join (If you tell about this like it's the best club on earth, every hand will raise, I promise!)
Create Squad Rules: As a group, created a list of rules and jobs that the kids in the "BPS" would be in charge of. One that I always made sure got included was a stipulation that the students wouldn't repair the books themselves, they'd be in charge of getting the kit and then bringing it to me. We’d also review basic library rules, like how to hold books, turn pages, and put them back on the shelves- complete with practice!
Overreact to Every Rip and Mark: When you or another member of the Squad finds even the TEENSIEST little rip or mark in a book, you need to act like IT WAS NEARLY THE END OF THE WORLD! “Oh my GRAVY! Look what Evan just found! Look, someone must have been reading this book a little roughly, because LOOK AT THIS TEAR! Good thing you caught it, Evan, will you please very quickly get the Book Repair Kit so we can hurry up and save our book?” Drama! Drama! Drama!
Prepare for the Book Protection Squad to Overreact Too: Yes, you will get some serious book zealots for a while, and you’ll wonder if you made a mistake and created book repairing monsters. This is normal and fantastic. The excitement will die down at some point but the kids will be left with phenomenal library manners.
I know it sounds crazy and dramatic (both words which could aptly describe my typical teaching style), but I kid you not, my friends, after I’d go through these steps each year, I would never have a problem again!
Have you ever tried something like this? I’d love to hear how it went!