We all know that the more kids read the better at reading they become, and the best way to do that is to promote a love for reading. One way we can do this is by having a large variety of books at their fingertips by having a well stocked, diverse classroom library, but how can we build a classroom library when our schools aren't funding our them?
There are several ways to grow your classroom library without having to spend a fortune on books. As a matter of fact, there are quite a few ways to build your classroom library for free. Here are a few ways you can have a well stocked classroom library on a teacher budget.
1. Parent and Student Donations
I can not promote this option enough. Every year at the start of the school year, I send home a letter to parents asking for donations. In this letter, I ask them to check around the house for any books their children have read which they know they will not be rereading nor are interesting in keeping as a keepsake. I have the students write my name, their name, and the year they donated it in the inside cover before turning it in to me. I usually share the donations with the class as they come in and tell students who has donated it. This motivates many of them to read it if it was donated by a peer.
If you'd like a copy of the letter I send to parents, fill out the information below, and you will receive it in your inbox.
2. Donor's Choose
Donor's Choose is another proven way to get books for free. Donor's Choose is an organization that helps support public school teachers and classrooms all over the United States. Teachers just need to sign up, write a grant, and they can collection donations from friends, family members, co-workers, parents of students in their class, or complete strangers that donate to different grants on the site.
A great way to set up the grant is to create a theme (ex. inventors) and focus the project around it. Choose books focused on the theme and try to keep the grant at a reasonable price. Very pricey grants sometimes go unfunded. Once you've set it up, share it on your social media outlets to friends, family members, and anyone you know. Most times, your donations can and will be matched using a specific promo code for a limited time.
3. Amazon Wishlist
Amazon gives you the capability of creating a wishlist. You can add books you'd like add to your classroom library and share the wishlist just as you would with a Donor's Choose project. They great thing about this option is that people can donate as many books they would like without having to meet a specific goal like you do for the grant you create on Donor's Choose.
4. Other Teachers
Retiring teachers or teachers changing grade levels can be excellent resources for free books. One year, I was taking over a classroom of a teacher who was retiring. He had been teaching in the school for over 30 years. He left me his entire classroom library. I was able to extract hundreds of books from his collection.
Another way to collect books is to be on the look out for teachers who find out they are changing grade levels at the end or start of a school year. Many times, if the age difference is very big, they want to get rid of some books. The teachers lounge at my school always has a pile of books at the end and start of the school year as teachers find out they are moving. I always go through those piles and end up with at least a couple of new books to add to our classroom library.
One more way is to ask teachers if they are willing to donate titles to you which they have several copies of. You can simply write a cute little note and place in each of the teachers mailboxes. You would be surprised how generous some of your co-workers can be.
5. School Funds
Not every school gives teachers funds to use on classroom supplies, but if you are one of the lucky ones, consider using those funds for books instead of cardstock paper or dry erase markers that can be donated by parents or given to you by your school. (Colored dry erase markers are cute and all, but I'd rather write using only black markers given to me by my administration while using my funds on books than the other way around.)
6. Scholastic Book Club
Do you remember receiving Scholastic Book Club flyers at school when you were younger? It was one of my fondest memories as an avid reader in elementary school. Students now-a-days still get just as excited to receive them and love ordering from them. As a teacher, if your students order from the Scholastic Book Club using your class referral code, you receive points. Those points allow you to order free books for your classroom.
Another wonderful option available through Scholastic Book Club is to purchase discounted books through their online store. Monthly, and sometimes weekly, they will offer $1 deals. I have received a variety of new books using this deal and have even ordered class sets for novel studies as well. You can follow Scholastic Book Club on Instagram to receive notifications on the titles they offer for a dollar.
7. Facebook Groups or Marketplace
Facebook Groups or Facebook Marketplace are another great way to find to books. Although they may not always be free, you can get great deals on popular titles. A few summers ago, I became a member of a local Facebook group that allows individual to post and sell things. I searched "books" and found lots of books that were deeply discounted. A perk was also that some of the people would add in extra books knowing that I was a public school teacher and would be sharing them with my students. Another great reason this a great way to purchase books is because the prices are not set in stone. You can negotiate what you are willing to pay, and many times, they are willing to drop the price just to get rid of them.
8. Second-hand Stores
Secondhand stores such as Half Price Books and Goodwill usually have popular titles at half the price of the original value. On Instagram, I have seen teachers walk out of Goodwill with books that were just $.50 to a $1. Definitely worth checking out your local 'thrift' stores.
I can not tell you how many books I have been able to grab on Ebay for just a small percentage of the cover price in "like new" condition. You can type in the names of the titles you wish to look at, and then selection the options you wish to consider such as price and condition.
10. Library Sales
When I first started teaching, I discovered that my local library was having their annual book sale. I scored some great titles in library binding. It was amazing.
I hope these options provide you with an opportunity to enhance your classroom library and the ability to offer many different titles to your students.
If you're looking for more ways to get books into your students hands, you can check out the blog post on Free Online Books for Kids. Once you have access to a wide range of books, you can help promote a love for reading by implementing some activities in class. You can read some of them by heading to the blog post titled How to Promote a Love of Reading in Your Classroom.