My boss thought this was a brilliant idea and decided we should start lending our only stuffed animal, Llama Llama Red Pajama, who had been originally been bought as part of story time. But knowing the little 3 to 5 year olds that go to our library, we knew having just one stuffed animal would be chaos. So we ordered a few more (Pigeon, Clifford, Spot, the Wild Thing and Pete the Cat).
Oh dear...if only we had known what we had started.
We realize we needed a few more, so now we had about 12 stuffed animals, but still, there were students whose main concern were the stuffed animals, no more love for the books. We learnt our lesson and we shared it with the new librarian, who, of course, loved the idea. She ordered a few extra stuffed animals. We now have over 30 of them!
To solve the issue of checking out only stuffed animals, we've pair up each stuffed animal with a book. Pigeon comes with a Pigeon book, or any other Mo Willems book in case we ran out of Pigeon books, and Peppa Pig also comes with one. Even my dad, join the fun and said: If you find a book whose main character is a hippopotamus, I'll donate the stuffed animal! So of course we found one!
Me: "Not toys, stuffed animals. Stuffed animals from their favourite book characters to be precise"
RP: "So kids have favourite book characters..."
Me: "and authors..."
RP: "...and they check out toys..."
I've had this conversations so many times. Adults are baffled about kids (as young as 3 years old) having a favourite author and the fact they can check out stuffed animals (yuk! but the dirt! the allergies! they say... have you been around little kids? Yes they can be gross at times but they will treat the stuffed animal the same way they treat books and I don't see you complaining about them checking out books!)
Nowadays checking out stuffed animals, for me and everyone in the libraries at my current school, is completely normal. It even gave me the chance to show off at a conference! They mentioned how this super modern and awesome library in some far far away country, let their patrons check out stuffed animals, I laughed and mentioned we were already doing that, it felt awesome obviously! But of course it did not start as an easy thing.
"Please return the stuffed animal and the book, in this bag, in two days time to the Library"
Each stuffed animal also has a tag, one with the information about the character:
For example, Peppa Pig's tag reads:
"Hi, my name is Peppa Pig. I love playing with my little brother and reading to him. Please read to me before I go to bed and take good care of me"
And one with information for the parents:
This stuffed animal is on loan from the Library, for a period of two days. Please allow your child to snuggle with it, read to it and take good care of it. Thanks!"
Since, in our school, there's a large percentage of parents that speak Spanish, all our tags are both in English and Spanish.
If you'd like to know more about our stuffed animals, feel free to leave a comment or email me :)