Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Stocking Your Classroom Library

Summertime means time to read!  As an avid reader, I love that in the summer I have the time to really indulge with some good books.  However, this is a habit that can quickly get expensive if you read as much as I do.  This is where the public library comes in.  I am lucky enough to have a great one near me.  One of the things I like best about it is the Friends of the Library Book Room.  This is a small room in the library where they sell donated and discarded books.  It is one of the ways I have been able to stock my class library on the cheap.  Here's a peak at the children's section of the book room along with the prices  my library charges.
Yup, those are all children's books for sale! 
And, yes, they did look at me oddly as I was taking these pictures.
You can't beat those prices!

Here's a sneak peak at some of the shelves.

 These are from the shelves for older friends. If you click on the picture, you will be able to read the titles.   The smaller shelves to the right in the top picture are full of books for the younger set.  Luckily, they always tend to have good books for sale, books that are current and in great shape. 

The book sale room is one of my first stops whenever I visit the library. Today was no different. Even thought I won't have a class next year, I couldn't stop myself from buying a little today.
  Here's my haul!

  • Oscar, Cat About Town and Smudge, the Lost Little Lamb both by James Herriot.  I am not a fan of James Herriot's adult books, but I love his picture books.  They have a rich text which is great for teaching word choice, complex sentences, and mood.  The illustrations by Ruth Brown are amazingly beautiful.
  • Another copy of My Many Colored Days by Dr. Seuss  One of my favorite Seuss books.  I used it to do a fun poem activity with my friends this year.  One of the great things about the library book sale is that when I see a book I love and already own, the cheap prices lets me buy it anyway and pass it on to another teacher.
I couldn't pass up a couple of good non-fiction books.  I know eventually I will have friends to read them!
  • The White House by Hal Marcovitz    I think I might donate this one to our school library.  With the upcoming presidential election, all things presidential tend to become book reports or classroom projects.  I'm sure this book will be used well.

All told, these six books cost me $5.50 at the library sale.  If I had purchased them new, in the formats I did, it would have cost me $50.79 based on the Amazon links.  That is a huge savings, and the books are all in great condition.

If your library has a book sale room or section, I really suggest visiting it throughout the summer.  You will find great deals.   I will say that one con to this is that different volunteers price the books.  This means that sometimes I will find multiple copies of the same book with different prices.  But, all prices are still cheap!  Also, about twice a year, my library holds a huge book sale where prices are even cheaper.  Often, they will do a bag of books for $5.  If you can, the summer is a great time to stock up on books.

I should mention that my libary also has a big section of books for adults for sale too.  It lets me buy good paperback books cheaply that I can take to the beach and not worry when they get full of sand and sunblock!

If your library doesn't do book sales, there are other options for stocking your classroom library inexpensively.
  • Yard Sales:  I've gotten good books this way, but I do find that these books are usually a little more worn than the ones I find in the library.
  • Thrift Shops:  My local Goodwill has a great book section.  Their prices are even cheaper than the library sale prices.
  • Your Students:  At the end of the year, send a note home to parents asking them if they would like to donate any books from home to the class library. I find that parents are happy to make some room on their bookshelves and donate.  I know, a little late for this tip.  Sorry!
  • Your Neighbors: If you have neighbors with kids, most likely they will have books they are ready to donate.  Don't forget, these are the same people who have those yard sales!  Get a jump on it and just ask if they have any children books they would like to donate to your classroom.
  • Scholastic Points:  Every month that I did a Scholastic book order, I used some points to get two or three new books for our classroom library.  This keeps a constant flow of books coming into your room, but it if you do it right, you will do something even nicer.  I was one of those kids when I was little.  I loved books, but my family couldn't afford to buy them.  Every month, I would bring the form home, but knew my parents really couldn't afford the extra money to buy books.  It was always a little sad to see the other kids getting books when the delivery came.  I know that I have friends in my class in the same situation.  What I always try to do is make those two or three books I order every month a book I know those particular friends would enjoy.  This way, they can borrow them from the class library right away.  It's like getting a new book, and it always puts a smile on their face.
  • Other Teachers:  Do a book swap!  It's great to do if you have teachers who are transferring grade levels or have multiple copies of books.  Just swap out with other teachers.

How do you stock your classroom library without breaking the bank?
If you have any other ideas, please share in the comments.  


  1. Our county library system not only has book sale rooms in a few of its libraries, it also has two separate stores, yes stores, that sell books. Books in the children's section are usually 50 cents or $1 each. And teachers get a 10% discount! I have enough books that I completely switch out books once or twice a year.

  2. A couple of libraries around me have sales throughout the year. ALL the kids books (soft cover, hard cover, etc) are only $0.25! It's awesome! I always leave with a huge bag of stuff. I've had to physically restrain myself from going to some of the sales this year - I don't have any more room!

    Sara :)
    Smiling in Second Grade

  3. Thank you for all of the great tips with this! I'm hoping to have my very first classroom this next year (I just graduated last May), so I know I will need to get started finding books. I'm going to start researching libraries around me that might sell books as well!

  4. Great tips for growing your class library! I had a couple of wonderful parents that donated boxes of their child's books to me. Great books in great condition!
    Conversations in Literacy

  5. I have found some really good deals at they are used books but very good prices! If you know of anyone retiring they often have books they are willing to sell cheap or give away to another teacher.

  6. A great way to get books is the half priced books warehouse. If you live in or near a large city, show up around 7:00 am. You leave with anything you can carryout yourself (yes you can bring rolling suitcases) for FREE!!!! The books aren't always great, but usually you get a bunch you can use. At ours, you basically scoop random stuff into your suitcases/boxes. Then everyone goes into this corner and goes through everything. Then you hear - "Anybody kindergarten? I've got some letter books to trade if you have chapter books you don't want" and other like comments until almost everyone leaves happy.

  7. I love these ideas! I know my local library has a few sales a year, but I wonder if they do all the time? I'll ask now! Thanks!

  8. I'm so jealous that your library has a fabulous book room and sales like that. What a tremendous resource! And I wish I had thought to ask my parents to donate books at the end of the year... I just added that to my calendar for next May to remind myself to do that. :)
    Thanks for sharing all these great tips!

  9. I will definitely be checking my local library to see if they have this, too! I've often seen it in the adult section, but not in the children's section. Maybe the main branch has something like this. At my school, the teachers always leave items they no longer want on a table in the teachers' lounge. This happens at various times throughout the year, but especially in June! I check it regularly to see if there are any books to add to my classroom library. Where I used to live, there was a great used bookstore that had a large selection of children's books. I would stock up there, and the owner usually gave me an additional discount because they were for my classroom.

  10. In my city, Scholastic has Warehouse sales 2-3 times per year, and the books are all under $5 (some much less).

    Also, WRITE GRANTS. In Canada, teachers at elementary schools in low-income areas can apply for the Chapters Indigo literacy grant, which is a whopping $25 000. Do a search & find other grants that you can apply for to get new books.

  11. Hey! Thank you so much for this idea! I live in NJ as well. Since reading your post, I've gone to a few sales but none measure up to the pictures you have shown. Do you mind sharing which library in NJ you go to? I would LOVE to fill my classroom with a ton of books!!!!!

    1. The pictures above are from the Old Bridge Public Library. It's actually not my town library, it's a few towns over from me. However, you don't need to be a library member to buy books from the Friends of the Library book section. If you are close enough, go on over and take a look!

  12. Well, I'm not a teacher yet, but I've know for years that I am going to teach Special Education. I have interned in classrooms and I love the children that I work with. My library has a really good selection of children's books. I'm kind of addicted. At least four times a week, I am in there getting grown up books for me and children's books for my future classroom's library. I already have a lot, but I figure if I can get them cheap now why not do it?
    Thanks for the tips on how to get more books. :)

  13. Thank you do much for info about the library! It's only about 20 min away!!!!!!!! This is wonderful! Thanks for the info! I'll let you know what I'm able to get there!

    1. Hey Anon! Good luck at the library! I know you will find lots of great books. When you are there, ask them when they have their big Friends of the Library sale. If you get there the first day, you can get tons of great books.

  14. fifth street books sells used children's books for $0.59 plus free shipping. i order a box of first grade books once a month. my classroom 'book nook' is running out of space! love this site! i copied and pasted the link