Tuesday, July 30, 2013

11 Ways to Build a Classroom Library on a Budget

Well, it's about that time! The back-to-school clock is ticking and there ain't no stopping it. Some of you may even be back already! For new teachers especially, this is such an exciting - and scary - time! One of the questions I hear come up for new teachers time and time again is "How do I build a classroom library with limited resources?"

I have a few ideas and tricks that have worked for me over the years that I will share with you here today. I also posted this question on my Facebook fan page and the response was overwhelming! No can ever accuse teachers of not being creative and resourceful when it comes to gathering materials - there were so many wonderful ideas, many of which I had never heard of, that I'm super excited to share with you. If you are willing to do a little work, you will be able to find some amazing books at little to no cost.

11 ways to build a classroom library on a budget:

1) Scholastic Book Clubs
Scholastic Book Clubs are popular - and for good reason. The excitement of a new book order form is like a present under the tree on Christmas morning to most students. It's a great way to get books into the hands of your kiddos at a great cost. For every order your students place, YOU get points which you can then redeem for free books. If you are a brand new teacher just starting out, you may be thinking, "That's great, but this doesn't help me RIGHT NOW." Fair enough - BUT just know that by using Scholastic Book Clubs from the beginning of the year, you are basically investing in the future of your classroom library. It doesn't cost YOU anything, and you will reap the benefits sooner rather than later. Definitely 100% worth signing up over at www.scholastic.com. Now, let's get to some ideas that will give you more immediate access to books.

2) Scholastic Warehouse Sales
Scholastic Warehouse Sales are a great way to get books at crazy discounts. Visit this site to see if there's one near you. Drink a coffee beforehand and wear comfortable shoes. :) AND, here's something I didn't know until a teacher shared on Facebook: If you volunteer at the warehouse sale, you can get paid $10 an hour in books! Here's a link to the volunteer page. How cool!

3) Yard Sales and Garage Sales
This is how I've gotten TONS of books from my classroom. We still have a few weeks left of peak yard sale season - make sure to keep your eye out for signs around your neighborhood! People are usually thrilled to unload their used books at cheap prices. Make sure to mention you are a teacher - sometimes this gets you a better price!

4) Thrift Stores
Good things come to those who treasure hunt! Check out your local thrift stores, as well as Goodwill and Salvation Army for children's books. Apparently, some Salvation Army stores will even give you a flat rate if you let them know that you're a teacher.

5) Dollar Stores
Check out your local dollar stores for deals. I've found tons of books at both the Dollar Tree and the Target Dollar Spot. The quality of the books at the Dollar Tree definitely varies, but they are cheap and generally high interest books. The Target Dollar Spot often has classic books adapted for young readers.

6) Booksalefinder.com
Visit booksalefinder.com for local book sales. You can search by state and find some great deals.

7) Booksbythefoot.com
I've never used this website personally but booksbythefoot.com looks like a great way to get a box full of books for a crazy cheap price. It's been repinned on Pinterest a ton, so the shipping may take up to 5 weeks based on the high demand, but it's definitely worth looking into. 

8) Craigslist.org
I've had a lot of success finding books on Craiglist. Search in the garage sale section or try search terms like "children's books" or "teacher". 

9) Freecycle.org
Freecycle.org is a nonprofit site where people post things they want to give away for free. As teachers, we LOVE free! You may need to dig around a little, but you can search by area and find free books.

10) DonorsChoose.org
If you are a public school teacher, look into donorschoose.org. You can set up a project page and ask for donations for books or other classroom supplies. I've had some pretty big projects fully funded through this website. 

11) Utilize Social Media
Ask your friends and family to donate books they no longer want or need. Post periodically on your Facebook or Twitter page that you are a teacher and looking for books to build your classroom library. Follow teaching blogs, Facebook pages and teachers on Instagram, as many post great deals they find.

This list will hopefully help get you started - but it's definitely not complete! Building a classroom library on a budget takes some legwork, but it can absolutely be done! If you have other ideas to share, PLEASE post them in the comments below - the more ideas, the better! I'm looking forward to hearing from you.

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  1. Great post, Blair! I really think that building a good classroom library is SO important--and sometimes it takes creativity! I would like to stress that the FIRST Scholastic book order of the year always has the BEST bonus points--so if someone is willing to fork out a little money on that one, it will pay back with lots of free books down the road!

  2. This post is great! I have over 2,000 books for my classroom, and I've paid about $0.50 for each of them. I also use ebay and type in "lot" of whatever type of book I want to purchase. I've had great luck that way - even considering shipping. I'm actually to the point (seven years in) where I need to be picky about the books I pick up. If you're interested in making the most out of the first Scholastic book sale, look at Laura Candler's post - http://corkboardconnections.blogspot.com/2012/08/how-to-earn-7000-scholastic-bonus-points.html
    Thanks for a great post! Pinning it now!

  3. Here are some great instructions on how to get that first book order of the year out there for the parents. I have done this every year and I always make the maximum points! I bought mp3 players for my classroom this past year with the points for an individual listening center. Laura Candler from Teaching Resources has wonderful FREE resources (and some to pay for that are great as well).
    Happy Back to School!! :)

    1. I should also say that I have a mix of income leveled students, but a little heavier on the low-income side. This has not made a difference. :)

  4. Those are such great tip! I think I've used at least half of them to build my library over the years! Another way we've added at our district is the LABB project or "Leave A Book Behind" project. We send home a really simple letter at the end of the year with a book plate and ask students to leave behind a favorite book they may have purchased throughout the year. They can fill in the book plate and it can go into their homeroom or ELA teacher's library. This year about 5 students left books behind for my library! These quality books too - books that my students read and really ENJOYED! Just another idea to share if anyone is building a library. Great for the end of the year!

    Thanks for sharing,

    My Shoe String Life
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  5. I used many of your ideas to build my class library. I'm not sure if you have a McKays, but it's a used book store with really great deals. I also tell parents that they can donate used books and I put donated by the child's name in the book before I put it in my library. Students really like seeing their names in books.

    Oodles of Teaching Fun

  6. This is some great information. I just signed up to go to a Scholastic Warehouse Sale!

  7. I've never heard of books by the foot! I did go to a scholastic warehouse sale once, that was fun! :)
    (PS, following with bloglovin now. Glad to have found you!!)


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