Monday, October 1, 2012

Finding Great Books on a Dime!

Do you need more books for your classroom library?  Have you already spent gobs of money on your classroom, and you don't have hundreds more to spend at Scholastic?  Here are some great ways to expand your classroom library without breaking the bank.  If you don't have a teacher account on this site yet, MAKE ONE NOW!  I've won ten different grants and thousands of dollars worth of materials for my school spending just a few hours pleading my case to the public (If you want to donate towards my two current ones, they can be found here- and here- ).  There are lots of people out there who want to support you and your students, and this is a great way to increase the scope of your classroom library.  For example, one of the grants that I wrote on Donors Choose was for a set of a few DOZEN books for boys!  While I certainly expect my female students to happily devour titles like The Hardy Boys & Encyclopedia Brown (and they do), I was able to add a set of sports chapter books, the recommended "Best for Boys" set, and a general 4-5 grade set of books to my classroom at no cost to me.  Another grant I wrote earned our classroom a whole set of lower-level reading books to support my below-grade-level readers.  I've also written two different grants for books that my grade alike team shares as we work through the related science units.  Donors Choose is a great way to let the public bless your classroom with the exact books you and your students want, and it takes about an hour of work total (choosing the materials you want, writing the description, and writing thank you notes after you get all the resources!).  This site is also great for a plethora of other products, but this post is about books, so we'll stick to mentioning only the literary goodness for now.  Here's a few of the Hardy Boys set I got from Donors Choose:

It's a good thing we teachers have the summers "off" so that we can get all the work we want to accomplish during the school year done!  Summer is the season of garage sales, and these are fantastic sources for great books.  Especially if you are a new teacher and you don't have much of anything in your classroom library, rummage sales are a great place to pick up a good quantity of books for very inexpensively or free. In my first few years of teaching, I would ask garage sale hosts if I could have the left-over books for my classroom.  Most of the time they were planning on giving the books that didn't sell to charity anyways, and many of them let me just take the boxes of books right then and there!  Garage sales, church sales, and rummage sales are great to pick through, and you can often get books for free from them if you offer to pick them up when the sale is over.

Do you have any friends with kids?  As their children grow out of books, scoop those texts right up!  Ask your friends to put aside any books that they're done with so they can be enjoyed by other kids.  If you have kids of your own, you might go through your own family library and see which books haven't been read in a while.  Get them into the hands of your students!  Examine the following picture to see how even Frederick Jr. the Plant loves books, and your students will appreciate a huge variety too!
A number of my favorite childhood books are included in my classroom library.  The ones that are important to me or have sentimental value sit on a special shelf behind my desk and are only available for "teacher permission reading" so I know who has them and know they won't be ruined.  A few of my childhood books weren't all that interesting to my sister and me, so they are interspersed amongst the other texts on the general classroom library shelves.  If you can't bare the thought of losing the book, don't bring it into your classroom, but if you have a few boxes of old books sitting in your attic (or your parent's basement), dust them off and get them into your classroom!

Check with your school library and with local public libraries (or private school libraries) towards the end of the year.  This is usually when they discard books that aren't checked out as frequently or have minor wear or tear on them.  I've gotten some great books from our church's private school and our own school library that have nothing more than a scribble on one page!  Library discards are another great way to expand your book collection.

Once you've gone through the above, you should have a pretty stellar start to a solid classroom library.  Now you can augment it with actual new, nice books from scholastic book orders.  Yes, passing out the little book flyers is kind of a pain, collecting the money and organizing the orders does take a few minutes out of your schedule each month, but it pays off.  Literally.  I've gotten hundreds of dollars worth of free books and products thanks to Scholastic.  Between promotions they run for a free book every monthly order of $20+, using the $10 to Spend Right Now coupons, and buying things with bonus points, Scholastic is a very teacher-friendly way to expand your library with great selections.  Probably about 100 of my classroom library books are from Scholastic, and nearly all of my literature circle book sets (I get 6 of each title, and I'll have to do a whole new blog post on literature circles) are from Scholastic.  The nicest pencil sharpener I've ever had in my life came from Scholastic bonus points, and the little wipeable clear folders I put my math workshop worksheets in for two of my centers are thanks to bonus points too.  Scholastic also has one of the best customer service policies I've ever come across- they will always make things right, and they are very professional and polite on the phone.  Plus, if you ever had the joy of looking through a Scholastic Book Club Magazine when you were little, you know how fun it is to pour over the new books, examine the brilliant covers, and dream about which books you would buy if you had a million dollars.  I still do! Here are some of the book sets that I've gotten through Scholastic:

Whether your hunting down new books at garage sales, earning grants to get new texts into your students' hands, raiding your own home library (and those of your friends and families), searching library discards, or getting pretty new books from Scholastic, remember to choose wisely.  An inappropriate book that is free is still not something that you want for your classroom!  While we'll never have enough time to read every awesome book that is out there, we can give a quick glance to the blurb on the back of each book we're unfamiliar with to make sure that it will be a good fit for our students (yes, I'm encouraging you to judge a book by its cover).  Once you have a good class library of 1,000 books or so, you can start the difficult task of culling your book population and giving the books away to students, or another new teacher who is just starting to build their own library!

 Where have you found your classroom library books?  How do you know what kind of books your children need?  What are your favorite series, authors, and books for your grade? What questions do you still have about classroom libraries? Leave a comment or question below, and, of course, share with friends, follow my blog, and find me on Pinterest!  Happy Reading!


  1. I got some great deals on big boxes full of books from CraigsList to help build my classroom library!

    1. That's fantastic! This is a great time for finding deals at garage sales too; happy book hunting!