Why Your Elementary Library Needs Board Books

A few years ago, my principal assigned 2 new classes on the specials schedule: primary and intermediate adapted library class for students in our autistic support classroom and those who have multiple disabilities (previously, this class might be called life skills).  

The students who attend this class were often destructive to books, sometimes without meaning to be, and I needed a solution that would allow them to use the library and borrow books, without needing to replace their borrowed books constantly. 

​Board books were the obvious solution.

I purchased a core collection that first year and have added a few new board books each year since then.  Even if we already had a popular title in hardcover, I ​might purchase it a board book copy for my students in adapted library, and to have a ​second copy too.  

​Since ​then, I've become a board book believer!  ​​If your budget allows, board books are a perfect complement to your​ elementary school library collection ​in several ways.

2 shelves of board books on a metal library bookcase. Text overlay reads: "3 Reasons to Buy Board Books for Your Elementary Library".

3 Reasons to Have Board Books in your Elementary Library:

1. Board books are very durable.

They can take use and abuse much better than most hardcover books.  For students who are just learning to take care of books, or who may be destructive by accident, purchasing board books saves you both money and time.  

2. ​They are affordable.

When compared to their hardcover or library-bound counterparts, board books tend to be half the cost, or even less!  

Additionally, many "lap-sized" board books are about the same size as hardcover books, so you don't even have to ​worry about "losing" them behind other books on the shelf.  If you order from Amazon, or your favorite library vendor, check the item specifications to see what size the board book is.   For your sanity's sake, it may be worth paying a couple extra bucks for the larger size board books.  

​3. ​And most importantly...​board books make your library more accessible to ALL students.

Back in my adapted library classes, students listen to a highly-engaging, interactive book that I read aloud, then they can choose 2 books from the Board Book section or the Everybody section if they have show they can take care of them.  

Students can self-select their own books, sometimes with the help or encouragement of the paraprofessional that comes with them.  ​Most students​ take their books home to read with their parents, and if they attend the "regular" library class as well, they might exchange books ​during both classes.  They end up checking out and ​reading more books, which is a huge win for them and their families with not much extra work for the librarian.

Some students who attend adapted library keep their books at school, however, in the autistic support classroom or multiple disabilities classroom.  In those instances, I still think it's valuable to check out books, and practice borrowing something.  The special education teachers and paraprofessionals can read with students throughout the school day, and these board books add some variety to what is available in a student's reading diet.

2 shelves in a wooden bookcase are filled with colorful board books with their spines facing outwards. The banner reads: "Board Books Section"

Making it Work for Your Library:

The key to making this program work is communication with the special education teachers.  Before checking out books to students in adapted classes, I talk to the teachers, and assure them that any book damage will NOT be their responsibility.  Sometimes I think teachers are hesitant to let students with severe special needs check out books because they feel that they are personally responsible for all of their students' behaviors, no matter how uncontrolled.  

Communicating your understanding that "accidents happen" and strategizing how to minimize accidental damage can go a long way towards building a positive program for everyone.

Where to Shelve Your Board Books

You can shelve board books with your Everybody or Easy section of picture books, or try what I've done, which is keep them on their own shelves.  I kept the call numbers the same and added a "Board Books" sublocation in our Destiny® circulation software so I know where to find them.

In the past, when I was just starting our board books collection, I put them in plastic Gratnell bins with the covers facing out.   The bins could stay on a mobile cart to bring out for adapted library classes, or they can be stored away and set out on tables when needed.

Need some ideas to start?

Check out my Board Books for Elementary Schools Idea List on Amazon, or follow me on Instagram where I post some of the adapted library books we read and activities to do. 

Do you have board books in your library?  Share with us how you use them in the comments! 

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Mrs. J in the Library

Collette J., or Mrs. J in the Library, is a full-time elementary teacher-librarian, blogger, and mama from Pennsylvania. She loves technology, books in any format, makerspaces, and all things Harry Potter. The information and opinions represented here are her own and are not the views and opinions of any business or organization.

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3 Responses

  1. Leigh Schimmel says:

    I am unable to click on your link for the Amazon List. 🙂