Providing a literature-rich classroom environment is important to ensuring student success. Variety, in both genres and reading levels, is essential. However, as all teachers know, the onus of stocking that classroom library is firmly on the teacher herself.
While families busily gather supplies the week before school starts, the average classroom teacher has been busy all summer gathering supplies — including the library books that will keep students engaged and excited about reading all year long. The cost of stocking that library is no small expense and without some creative shopping, it would be nearly impossible to provide students with a classroom library that is well stocked.
Fortunately, there are some easy ways to find books for your classroom library without busting your budget. If you check out these resources, you’re sure to find great stories to share with your students at an incredible discount. Each book you buy will serve as an investment that enriches students in your class for years to come, so it’s worth putting in the effort to check out these top resources for affordable classroom books.
How to Get Free and Low-Cost Books for the Classroom Library
1. Garage Sales
Spring and summer are the perfect times to scout out yard and garage sales to supplement your classroom library. Look for sales that advertise children’s items, as they frequently have children’s books on sale as well.
Teacher Brandi Forman swears by yard sales: “When I would ask about buying all of the books at yard sales people would always ask why. A lot of the time they just gave me the books or sold them to me very cheap when I said I was a teacher.” It’s always worth asking whether a seller is willing to give you a discount if you buy a large quantity of books from their garage sale.
2. Library Sales
Call your local library and find out when they are having their next book sale. Many libraries periodically sell off books in their collections to make room for new titles. This is one of the best ways to snag some great books at a significant discount.
3. Scholastic Book Orders
Scholastic Book Clubs give students and parents a chance to bring home new titles, but they also reward teachers with bonus points that can be used to purchase books for the classroom. Those monthly book order points add up quickly, so browse the fliers and pick out the titles that you think will benefit your students the most in terms of their comprehension and vocabulary skills.
4. Thrift Stores and Goodwill
Most thrift stores get a ton of donated books. In fact, most get so many that they have a designated day of the week when books are on sale. Contact your local thrift store to see if they have sale days and if they offer teacher discounts. If the books at your thrift store tend to get snatched up quickly, ask if there’s a certain day when new inventory is made available for sale.
Teacher Reta Troxell suggests asking families for donations of books for the classroom library. “Lots of times, parents will send in books from their personal libraries that they are willing to donate. I got my whole collection of Dr. Seuss books that way,” she explains. Make a request at the beginning of the school year and then throughout the year in monthly newsletters or on your class blog. Send home a flier a few times per year to remind parents that you’d any book donations. This is a great idea right after Christmas when kids get lots of new books and toys and parents may encourage them to donate their old ones.
DonorsChoose.org is a website that allows teachers to request items for their classroom. Donors then decide which projects they want to fund. Many teachers have had success in requesting books for their class libraries. Teacher Dawn Hart agrees, “I’ve gotten sets of books free from generous donors and it was truly a blessing!”
How to Get Free and Low-Cost Books for the Classroom Library (cont.)
Search for books by the “lot”, “collection”, or “group” to find the most books for your buck. Watch out for shipping charges though, as books are heavy to ship.
Place a free “wanted ad” on your local Craigslist site to request classroom library books. Oftentimes, you will be able to find someone willing to donate books or sell them to you at a cheap price. As always, make sure you never meet or go to anyone’s home alone when picking up books.
The mission of firstbook.org is to give students access to high-quality children’s book. To do this they offer teachers significant discounts on children’s literature for their classroom.
10. Other Teachers
Consider switching library books mid-year with another grade-level teacher in your building or district. It is a free way to expose both classrooms of students to new book collections while alleviating some of the financial strain on the teachers.
Some large corporations have educator grants that you can apply for. Submit an application for a grant requesting children’s books for your classroom.
Freecycle is a collection of local groups that are based on the premise of giving away things that are no longer needed. Members can place “wanted” posts for the things they are looking for – in this case children’s books for the classroom library. It is free to join and you can find a ton of things for your classroom – for free!
Do you have any teacher resources you turn to when you need to expand your classroom library? Share your ideas below!
By Brandi Jordan
This piece was originally published in 2014.