Kindergarten Checkout

I was skimming blogs and saw the preview of School Library Monthly for December. A column will be included by Judy Moreillon titled “Policy Challenge: No Kindergarten Checkout until December.”

It made me think of what’s been happening in my library for the last two weeks. But first the backstory, because I’m a looper when I tell a story in person, so I might as well do a flashback here!

I’m one of those librarians. You know, the crazy one who lets Kinders check out books the first time they are in library. From the shelves. From any shelf. 

Sounds intriguing, doesn’t it? (I use “intriguing” rather than “insane.”)

For the past two years I happened to have the Kindergarten rotation first when school started. Because of my schedule I see two grades at a time for a rotation. I also see Kindergarten first in the day. This translates to Kinders checking out books about an hour after they’ve first stepped foot into school.

Wild and crazy and completely wonderful!

I say things like….. “you want a book about princesses? Okay….let’s go find one.”

“Hmmm…. that book has a really great cover, doesn’t it?! I bet you’re going to love this book in a few years. Today, let’s find a book with LOTS of pictures instead of just one.”

“You put your book back on the shelf? Um….. can you go find it for me?”
“The scanner lines up like this….. this way….back that way….turn it around…..line the red stripe up with the black stripes….up a little…no, UP…….this way…..” Finally the scanner beeps!!!

“Yes, you really do get to take it home.”


‘Don’t put it back on the shelf! You get to take it with you.”

I do have reasons for the madness.
I think Kindergarteners should learn right away that library books are to be celebrated. It is their library.  Only a handful of students raise their hand when I ask if they have used a public library before. I say that so that you don’t think that my students already know about borrowing and returning books. There’s usually less then five in a class that report being library users before Kindergarten.

I think Kindergarten students should be encouraged to check out fiction and nonfiction. Yes, it’s hard. In my library, these sections are on opposite sides of the library.  Helping students at the shelves and at checkout is challenging. I leave plenty of time for Kindergarten checkout and the extra time helps.

I think Kindergarteners should be expected to do what I want them to do in the future. It’s like the concept that we are not raising kids, we are raising future adults.  Granted, this doesn’t mean Kinders do everything a 5th grader does. But it means they scan their own library card at the checkout. And they scan their own books. I ‘help’ by guiding their hand, but I try very hard not to do it for them. There is nothing about using a scanner that they can’t do what a 5th grader can do. I do supervise. For the first few classes we man two checkout stations and the library assistant and I each take one. The classroom assistant is also supervising students after they have checked out. And yes, I’m still finding princess books, dinosaurs, and sharks…. The line at checkout can get a bit long. Also, even though you’ve just noted three adults in the room during checkout, I’ve done it before with just me. For many years with just me. The first week of school with students who had even less of an idea about libraries and book care.

During weeks 2, 3, and 4 of school I start to see my Kinders in the library as they come in during open checkout with their classroom assistant. They need a few reminders, but generally know to get a shelf marker, find a book, get their library card, and check out their book. Again, I guide at the checkout until they get the hang of the scanner.

All of this leads us to the wonderfulness of the past two weeks. Kindergarten students have been showing up during open checkout with their buddies or small group to check out books without an adult supervisor. They move through the library independently. They know the routine. I am so delighted every time I see a small group of small kiddos come in with their large blue library pass. It tickles me!

I don’t have any more books overdue than I do in other grades. Or more damaged books. The only thing I get more of (and it’s about one or two per year) is the student who returns their book to the shelf, not understanding that it has to be returned to a special box. This usually happens during classtime because classroom helpers return books in the morning.

When I see a limit such as waiting until December to check out books or students who check out from a pre-selected location I think about how much my students would miss out on. If students can be independent in the library after just six to eight weeks then why would I want to wait?

November 3, 2012
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  • Reply By Amy B.

    Like you I allow kinders to check out within the second or third week of school. I do a welcome a rules review the first week, they create their own library cards the second week, and checkout begins the third week. They would go absolutely bonkers if I didn’t allow check out for several months. It would be like letting them into a candy store and not allowing them to buy any candy for months!! That being said, I do limit them to the picture book section for the entire year. I put out nonfiction books out on our library “benches” for them to select from, but do not send them into the nonfiction stacks. Why do I do this? Because our picture books section is so rich that I want them to check out from that section only so that they will continue to return to the picture book section as they get older. I mean, when it comes right down to it, they are checking out 35 times at the most during the school year! That’s not a lot of books from our PB section. The last month of school I let them check out from the early reader section and they are thrilled. I build up the ER collection because, guess what, by the time they’re in first grade they already think they are ready to move on. Sigh. They want to grow up so fast! Thanks for the post.

    November 4, 2012 at 1:53 am
    • Reply Carolyn


      I always love hearing about procedures and philosophies at different schools. Thanks for sharing yours! I just started an Early Reader section this year. It’s helped my kids find the right ‘chapter books’ a lot better than in the past.

      November 5, 2012 at 11:21 pm
  • Reply MsJess

    I compromise, the kinder students check the book out to their classroom. Their curriculum has time periods in the day where they are reading personal choice books and they can read their books then. Once they get to first grade they can check out books and take them home! Some chose to keep them in the classroom and that’s fine too.

    Usually I will do check out starting in the second or third week once we’ve ironed out rules and procedures.

    I believe that the risk of losing books is worth the reward of them having access to library materials. I work in a very low income urban school and I had several teachers and administrators give me dire warnings about how many books would be stolen. Ultimately I lost less than 1% of my collection. I had competitions for which class would return the most books, sent home notes to parents and gave kids the option of donated a book if they lost a library book. I am still getting “lost” books from previous years (one parent of a student who graduated mailed the book into the school!)

    January 13, 2013 at 2:45 am
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