A well-stocked classroom library encourages self-selected independent reading and can also serve as a great place for children to enjoy some down time during the school day. However, keeping your class library replenished with a rotation of good books may present a bit of a challenge since most teachers have to pay for reading materials using their own money. Here are 10 great ways to get cheap children’s books:
1. eBooks: If you have mobile devices in your classroom, eBooks are a great investment because they never get lost, worn out, or damaged, and they’re often much cheaper than print books. Download the Kindle app to your classroom devices and check out Amazon’s monthly and daily deals, 25 kids books for $1 each, or FreeTime unlimited, which provides access to over 8,000 kid-friendly books and movies for $2.99 per month. Another idea is to add books to a public Amazon wish list for parents and community supporters to donate. You might also find some great stuff at Free Kids’ Books, which lets you read online or download PDFs at no cost.
2. Digital book subscriptions: Schools rarely pay for printed books to fill teachers’ classroom libraries, but they often have funds for technology and/or reading programs. There are a growing number of programs that allow you to pay a set price to receive access to hundreds of grade-appropriate books. I recommend SNAP! Learning, which allows you to assign books to your students and send them right to kids’ devices, and even tracks and creates reports on what they’ve read. (You can request a free demo to see how it works.)
3. Your local library: Sign up to be notified by email or phone when the library cleans out the children’s section, or check regularly to see what books they’ve put up for sale. Books can go for as low as $0.25 and are usually hardcover! Also ask if teachers can check out books for extended periods of time. Some libraries will allow educators to keep books for 3-12 weeks, which is long enough to utilize the resources throughout an entire thematic unit. Don’t forget to check out audio books for your listening center, as well as the selection of children’s music and movies.
4. Online auction sites like eBay: A few years ago, I purchased fifty children’s books on eBay for only $34—including shipping and handling! Books are shipped using media mail rates, which are very, very low. Many teachers sell books when they switch grade levels, move, or retire, and this is a great way to build a classroom library cheaply.
5. Book Fairs: These are regular-scheduled events located throughout the country. Book Fairs sell new books that were over-printed, out of print, etc. I recently visited my grandmother in central Virginia and got thirty-five books for $29 at the Green Valley Book Fair! Check your newspaper listings or go online to see what book fairs come to your area, or use the Book Sale Finder Tool to find local book selling events.
6. Scholastic Reading Club and Book Fairs: Informally known as “Scholastic book orders”, the reading club is one of the best deals anywhere for teachers. You get points towards free books every time you or one of your students’ families buy books, and prices often start from $0.50. At one time, Scholastic ran a 100 books for $100 deal, and though I didn’t get to pick the titles myself, I was really happy with the assortment they sent. Holding a Scholastic book fair at your school can also help you earn points and get free and inexpensive books.
7. Secondhand shops and consignment stores: Salvation Army, Goodwill, and other charitable organizations are a great source of used books. Bonus: the money you spend goes toward a good cause. Another place to find affordable used books are consignment stores and sales. Do a quick online search on sites such as Consignment Mommies to see if there are any in your area. If there is one, don’t forget to call first before going to see if they have any books to sell. Alternatively, you can also check out online consignment stores like Swap.com which also offers a good selection of used books at discounted prices.
8. Book swapping: There’s quite a number of book trading sites on the internet that allow you to buy books using credits you earn from giving books away. Most of the sites offer their services for free so all you have to pay for is shipping, which can be cheap if you use media mail rates.
10. Corporate Donations: Many companies have literacy outreach programs through which they donate books to schools. A local phone company used to send a representative each year to the school I taught at to read to all of the third grade classes. Their company was associated with the First Book Program, which provides reading materials to low-income children, and they donated at least one book for every student. Visit First Book to sign up and see if your classroom is eligible.
Have you found other ways to get cheap children’s books for your classroom library? Please share your tips and advice in the comments!
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