I firmly believe that every elementary classroom should have a fantastic classroom library. The library should be filled with books that their students are wanting to read. This means that teachers are having to regularly update their libraries to reflect the current interests of their students. Buying books gets pricey and most teachers are not rolling in the dough. Sadly, very few schools have the funds to help fill classroom libraries. I am super proud of my extensive library. I did not buy the books full price. Let me share some great ways to grow your classroom library on a budget.
1. ScholasticEvery teacher needs to sign up with Scholastic Book Clubs! It’s a fantastic way to get free and discounted books and it is a good way to help parents put new books in kids’ hands. When you sign up, I recommend that you request book orders for your grade level, one below and one above. So if you teach third grade- request 2nd, 3rd and 4th. I send home the order forms every month. Parents are able to go online and order books for their children. I earn points for every book that they purchase. I use these points to get FREE books for the classroom!
Also, the front of each book order form usually has a $1 book. I have been able to get tons of popular books for just a $1. This comes in really handy when you need books for book clubs! Even if you are not buying $1 books, Scholastic tends to have very decent prices. You will also periodically receive coupons for yourself and your students.
You may also want to check and see if you have a Scholastic book warehouse in your area. This is a great place to find very inexpensive books! Just plan lots of time to sift through the books!
2. Birthday BooksI love to celebrate student birthday. Lots of families at my school will send in a treat to share with the class. Another great way to celebrate and grow the classroom library is to encourage students to bring in a copy of their favorite book on their special day. They can sign their name and write their birthdate on the inside cover. It's also fun to have students include their photograph on the cover. Students love to share their favorite book and know that they will be a part of your classroom library for years to come. It makes them feel special!
You can grab a FREE copy of my birthday book parent letter by clicking HERE.
3. Garage SalesPay close attention to garage sales in your area! You can often score a ton of very gently used books for change! I scored some Baby-Sitter’s Club books at a garage sale and I was stoked. I paid 25 cents per book and these books are out of publication now. I couldn’t have bought them at the bookstore if I wanted to! (They are making graphic novel versions that my kids love, but they only have a few out so far.)
4. Second-Hand StoresWhen I first started teaching, I went to a Half Price Books store in my area and bought dozens of books. I completely filled my bookshelves with amazing titles! You certainly don’t have to go crazy like me- but check your local second-hand book stores and Goodwill stores. You can usually score popular books for half of the price that book stores charge.
5. Library SalesMy local library has a used book sale every few months. It’s an excellent way to grab some very inexpensive books. Sometimes the titles are more obscure and other times I score some popular titles. It is worth calling your library to see if they ever have used book sales!
6. Donor’s ChooseDonor’s Choose is an organization that allows public school teachers to write grants for classroom supplies. They can collect donations from their friends and family and/or complete strangers will donate to the projects. I have had several Donor’s Choose book projects funded! It is so exciting to get a box full of the books you want and not have to pay a dime! And since you have nothing to lose, every teacher should have an active Donor’s Choose project posted!
7. Wish ListI highly recommend going on Amazon and starting a class wish list. You can choose the books that you need or want for the classroom. Then share the wish list in your next classroom newsletter or email. Sometimes families want to help, but don’t know how. I don’t know about you, but I would rather receive books for my classroom than another coffee mug! It can’t hurt to ask!
8. Friends & FamilyHow about going on to your personal Facebook page and asking friends and family if they have any used books that they want to donate? Lots of families have old book crammed on to kid bookshelves and they just haven’t taken the time to organize and get rid of the ones that they no longer read. If you ask- you might help them to get more organized! You’re performing a good deed! LOL! But seriously, you will probably get some books donated!
9. Facebook MarketplaceHave you looked at the Facebook Marketplace? When you are using the Facebook app, click on the building with an awning at the bottom of the screen. It will show you what people are selling in your area. If no one is selling books, consider posting an ad that says you are in search of (ISO) gently used books. I am also part of a local buy and sell Facebook page. Check and see if your neighborhood or town has one. Lots of people have old books sitting around and they might be willing to sell them for a very reasonable price!
10. Retiring TeachersIf you happen to know a teacher that is retiring, become their best friend. Bring them coffee and chocolate! When teachers retire, they often give away their books or sell them at a very reasonable price. During my first year of teaching, my mother-in-law and my next-door neighbor retired. I scored big time! Be on the lookout!
I hope that these ideas help you to get more books in the hands of your students!