3 Ways to Manage a Take-Home Book Checkout System


I’m a big believer in letting kids take books home. Yes, some of your books may get ripped, or lost, or drooled on by baby brothers. But this is a small price to pay in exchange for the incredible value that take-home books provide!

As I’m sure you already know, some of the students in your class do not have books at home. And our students are with us at school for a limited amount of time each day. So isn’t it great when kids are able to complete (some of) their reading practice at home?

Establishing a take-home book checkout system for your classroom requires a bit of preparation. But if you spend a little time setting up your procedures, the system should run smoothly on a daily basis.

Setting Up The System

Something I’ve done for book storage/transportation is to have students use 2 book bags. Each child gets a Hefty 2.5 gallon baggie and a 1 gallon Zip-Loc baggie. The Zip-Loc baggie goes inside the larger Hefty baggie. When students check out books from our classroom library, they put them in the larger Hefty baggie. At the end of the day, they move the book(s) they want to take home from the Hefty baggie into the smaller Zip-Loc baggie. The smaller baggie goes home, and the larger baggie stays at school.

This shows the larger Hefty book bag (2.5 gallon) with a smaller Ziploc baggie (1 gallon) inside. The larger book bag stays at school, and any books students want to take home at night go into the small Zip-loc baggie.

This photo shows the smaller baggie inside the larger baggie.


This photo shows the smaller, take-home baggie that also includes a reading log.

But how do you know which books go home each night? And how can you ensure that they come back? Keep reading for 3 different ways to keep track of take-home books!

Here are 3 different ways to set up a take-home book checkout system in your classroom! The post also includes the pros and cons of each system.

1. Library card system

This is one of the most commonly used checkout systems I’ve seen. You place a library card pocket in the front cover of each book (find some cute library pockets here). Then, you place an index card with the book title and author’s name inside that pocket.

Using library pockets is one way to set up a take-home book checkout system. Read the entire post for 2 additional ideas!

When students want to take a book home, they take out the card and place it into their own library pocket that has their name on it. In the morning, they bring back the book, put the library card back into its pocket, and their pocket remains empty until they check out another book.

If you have all students’ pockets on a bulletin board or poster board, it’s pretty easy to see which student has which book. It’s also easy for students to use – they don’t have to write down book titles, which can take quite a while for little ones!

This system is pretty simple once it’s been set up, but it does take a ton of time to make all those cards and pockets. Sometimes cards and pockets get ripped, and you have to create new pockets/cards every time you buy a new book. Maintaining the cards/pocket system would be a great job for parent volunteers!

2. Book checkout form

This system requires less work than the pockets and cards system. First, print a copy of my free book checkout form (just click on the photo below to download it).

Using a book check-out form is one way to set up a take-home book checkout system. Read the entire post for 2 additional ideas!

Make a copy of the form for each student in your class. They should keep the form in their reading folders. At the end of the school day, all students put their sheets on top of their desks. They write down the names of any books they will be taking home, and they leave that sheet on their desks overnight. (If leaving on desks is a problem, you can collect all the sheets and keep them until the following morning.)

In the morning, students place the books on top of their desks immediately after entering the classroom. Once you give each child the “okay,” he/she puts those books back into their book bag (or the classroom library, whichever is easiest).  The checkout sheet goes back into the reading folder.

However, if a student did not return his books, you collect his sheet. Students who did not return their books are not allowed to take home more books that afternoon. You hang onto the sheet until the student brings the books back to you.

The benefits of this system is that it’s pretty easy to implement. Students will quickly learn the routines for the beginning and end of the day. It’s also easy for you to take note of who is not returning their books consistently, since you collect the sheets of students who do not bring back their books.

The drawback is that it requires a bit of work from you in the mornings. You have to look at each child’s desk and individually give the student permission to put away his books and sheet. It doesn’t take long at all, but if you have other morning tasks to complete, things can get hectic.

3. Photos on a tablet

This third way to maintain your book checkout system only works if you have tablets or devices for each student in your class.

At the end of the day, have students place the book(s) they will take home on their desks. Students then use their tablet or device to snap a photo of the books. They can send the photo to you, set it as the background/screensaver on their device, or simply save the photo.

In the morning, students place the books back on top of their desks and you give them the “okay” to delete the photo. If students did not return their books, they must send you the photo.

The pros of this system are that it is paperless, quick for students (they do not have to write down book titles), and simple to implement. The cons are that it requires students to be relatively comfortable using the technology, and that photos can accidentally be deleted or lost.


I certainly haven’t found a perfect way to set up a take-home book checkout system, but I hope you find at least one of these ideas do-able for you.

Another option for allowing students to take books home is to give them books that they don’t have to return at all! I have printable books available in my TpT store that students can take home, read, and keep.

Using these printable books is an easy alternative or supplement to having students take home “regular” books. And the best thing is that you don’t have to worry about getting them back! Click on the image below to read more about the books.

Use these printable books in students' take home book bags! Kids can read and reread them at home with their families, and you won't have to worry about making sure the books come back to school.

If you have any other suggestions for setting up a take-home book system, please share in the comments! Thanks for reading!


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8 years ago

I use the “book un a bag” system. Every monday we give each student 4 books and the reading log on a big ziplock bag. They have to turn them on Friday. Every bag is labeled from 1-…the total students. And what we switch are the r.logs. Is not reading from the classroom library, its more homework type. But I would like them to read what they choose.

Your card system is great!!, just as you said, time consuming. And the other two choices are not doable for me. ??

7 years ago

I used the photo system a few years ago, but I took the photos with my iPad and they posed with their books so I knew whose were whose. I just went around the room taking the pictures so they were all together in my camera roll and then deleted the photo when the books were returned.


I’m Alison, a literacy specialist. I love getting kids excited about reading and writing – and sharing teaching ideas with other teachers!

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