Ten Easy Ways to Get Books for Your Classroom Library

By Nancy Jang on November 25, 2010
  • Grades: PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8

The heart of my classroom is the classroom library. The students love spending their time browsing the shelves for new material or cuddling up in a chair or on a pillow to read. They look forward to sitting in the library during my Read Aloud time. They love to be read to and they listen raptly while I am reading.

The heart of my classroom is the classroom library. The students love spending their time browsing the shelves for new material or cuddling up in a chair or on a pillow to read. They look forward to sitting in the library during my Read Aloud time. They love to be read to and they listen raptly while I am reading. They clamor for my book after I read it, and some kids go to our school library to check the exact same book out so they can read ahead of me.

Fostering a love of books even in the most reluctant reader begins with having books in your classroom library that will engage them. But how do you get these books? Read on to learn ten ways you can build a great classroom library without breaking the bank.

 

Whether you are a veteran teacher or a new teacher, there are times when you need some new resources for building a classroom library. Maybe you changed schools, changed grade levels, moved, or are coming back to teaching from a long break. Maybe you just want to "freshen up" your library with new books and retire some old ones. No matter what your situation, here are some resources that you can use to get more books.

Books-pile
1. The School Librarian and the School Library: Our school librarian checked out over 200 books for me to use in my classroom library for the year and also sets aside a pile of great holiday read-alouds every month. Tap into those resources!

2. Grants: A few teachers at my school wrote a grant for an accelerated reader library and quizzes to go with the books. The grant they received was for $5,000! Another great place for grant money is Donorschoose.org. Family, friends, parents, and even strangers will donate money to your grant project, and when your grant is funded, they just mail you your goodies. The process is so EASY!

3. Donations from students in your class, your friends, and family members. At Back to School Night and conference time, I send out a reminder note to parents letting them know that I would love to have their gently used children's books. Another note goes out before Christmas suggesting that instead of buying the teacher a present, they clean out their child's bookshelf and donate to the classroom. After all, do you really need another teacher mug or more scented soap?

Image courtesy of the Blog at 16th and Q.

 4. Online at eBay, Freecycle, and Craigslist: The shipping can end up costing a lot, so I look for places in my area so that I can drive over and pick the books up. Locally, check out used bookstores, Friends of the Library, Goodwill, Salvation Army, swap meets, and garage sales! Many times, when I tell them that I am a teacher, they give me an even better deal. Also at swap meets and garage sales, people are willing to dicker over the price a bit. I arrived several times at a garage sale a bit late and they were cleaning up. They sold me a grocery bag full of books for $1.

HappyBirthdayBalloons_compressed
5. Birthday Books Program: In my class, I don't allow parents to bring sweets in to celebrate children's birthdays. Instead of cupcakes or cookies, they can bring in a new or gently used book wrapped  in gift wrap. We celebrate the child's birthday by singing our special birthday song and giving them a crown, a sticker, a card, and a coupon for one night with no homework. They open the book in front of our class. I put a birthday sticker in it, and they get to write a dedication. The kids love to see other birthday books from years past in the library, some of them even from their older brothers and sisters!

Image courtesy of Peterson Elementary School.

6.  Scholastic Warehouse Sales: About 20 minutes from my school is a Scholastic Book Fairs Warehouse. They have a wonderful warehouse sale three times a year or so where they sell books at all different levels, some on special clearance, and all at a great price. You really can't beat Scholastic for great books at a great price. If you look online to see if there is warehouse near you, be sure to get on the email list. They will notify you when there is a sale, and you can download a coupon for an additional percentage off and a "Fast Pass" coupon to get in a special short register line. Totally worth it!

7. Retiring Teachers and Empty Rooms: Many times when a teacher is retiring, they give away some of their classroom supplies or even leave them behind. Be tactful about it, but ask them if they would be willing to donate some or all of their books to you. There have been several teachers at my school who were excited to have teachers come "shop" in their room. One time, I packed four boxes of books to take back. I wrote a nice thank you note to the teacher and gave her movie tickets and a gift card for her favorite restaurant. Sometimes a teacher changes grade levels, moves to a new school, or quits teaching. Sometimes they leave behind wonderful books that they don't need anymore. Ask your principal, but most of the time, they are willing to let let you have them.

Book club flyer 

8. Scholastic Book Orders: OK, this seems like a no-brainer, but WORK THE SYSTEM! Offer to compile book orders for other teachers at your school who are not doing book orders because "it's too much work." It's seriously not that much more work than you are already doing, and you reap the benefits of free books and points. You can even enlist a parent volunteer to be in charge of it.

In the beginning of the year, Scholastic offers a special incentive for ordering. In September, you can earn 4,000 points for an order of $200 or more. Bonus points equals free books!! Making a $200 order from one class is tough, but if you can get other teachers to order from you, it's super easy.

Also, if you use the online ordering option where parents can use their credit cards, the order totals tend to go up.

Another way to boost book order sales is to offer an incentive to the kids. For example, you could give them a sticker, a coupon for a privilege in your class like sitting next to a friend for the day, or whatever incentives you already use in your classroom. 


Image courtesy of Scholastic Book Clubs.
 

Library

9. Going Out of Business Sales: In this economy, teacher supply stores, bookstores, and many other businesses are liquidating their inventory because they're going out of business. Although some of the stores have videos or clothing, some of them might also sell some children's books or furnishings. It's always worth a look. You might even be able to purchase bookshelves or fixtures for a reasonable price.  I purchased my flat front bookshelves from a Fedco when they went out of business.

 

Book Fair Logan el

Image at the left courtesy of Logan Elementary School.

10. Book Fair Wish Lists: Our school hosts Scholastic Book Fairs twice a year. In order to promote the book fair, I take my class over for a preview day. The librarian reads a book out loud and goes over the rules for shopping. If they brought money, they can buy what they wish then. Students also make a wish list with three book titles to take home, and we add it to the book fair reminder flyer. All of the teachers post their wish lists on the wall by the entrance to the book fair. Most of the time, I have one or two parents who are willing to buy a book from my list for our class library. Then they also get a special dedication book plate put on the inside cover. The proceeds from the book fair sales go towards buying books for our school library.

I hope that you found a few good tips to help you get some great books. Join me next week as I write about fun ways to celebrate and learn about the upcoming holidays.

Happy teaching,

Nancy

 

Comments

7. Retiring Teachers and Empty Rooms: Many times when a teacher is retiring, they give away some of their classroom supplies or even leave them behind. Be tactful about it, but ask them if they would be willing to donate some or all of their books to you. There have been several teachers at my school who were excited to have teachers come "shop" in their room. One time, I packed four boxes of books to take back. I wrote a nice thank you note to the teacher and gave her movie tickets and a gift card for her favorite restaurant. Sometimes a teacher changes grade levels, moves to a new school, or quits teaching. Sometimes they leave behind wonderful books that they don't need anymore. Ask your principal, but most of the time, they are willing to let let you have them.
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Can you send me the notes you send home to parents regarding tip #3and#5?
Great ideas!

I have purchased for little to nothing many like new books at yard sales and thrift stores. A girl who works at a local thrift store was so happy to know I wanted books, she would give me a large paper bag full for $1 or I could pick through for 10 cents apiece. Some are not fit for my reading corner, but if I get 5 nice books for a dollar, you can't beat that! These places are bombarded with books and often scrap them to paper recycling buyers for pay by the pound. Check this out. You may be happily surprised.

I do not feel that Tip #8 was offensive -- every teacher's situation is different, and he/she can adapt any or all of your tips to fit the climate of the school/classroom. My school is very low income, single parent (or other family member rearing children;but I found several ideas here that would work for us, and several that could be adapted.

Please, rather than criticize someone else's ideas; rejoice that they are willing to share their knowledge and experience. Then, use what works for you and trash what doesn't.

I always wait to send the September book order until the beginning of October, so parents have some pay checks after all the back to school expenses. The order is usually good until mid-November, so we have plenty of time to get orders in. Our PTA also offered to give teachers $50.00 each toward our orders to help build classroom libraries. All it took was a presentation to the PTA board to get this extra help from them. Over the years my friend and I have managed to get thousands of books for our classrooms.

I don't think the homework pass needs to be offensive even though I totally understand and have witnessed schools filled with children whose families are living in poverty or are simply struggling to make ends meet. However, the pass could be effective when the student reads the book and turns in a brief feedback on what he or she did/ did not like. Also, for any books that seem especially worthwhile, the same pass could be offered for a book review checked out of a library. Anything that teachers can do to encourage reading is just as worthwhile as one night's homework worksheet.

I volunteer at the warehouse sale in Fenton, MO and for every hour I volunteer, I get $10 in free Scholastic books. Their warehouse sale prices are 20% to 80% off already, so I can get lots and lots of books without spending any money.

Rhonda,Thanks for your comment! If you have any ideas to add, I'd love to add them to my list. I hope some of these really work for you and making your library awesome. Happy Teaching, Nancy

I love the tips, I am always looking for ways to get new books~ Thanks!

Karly, Tip number 8 was not meant to be offensive and I'm sorry if you felt it was. My intention was not to offend, but just to give an example. Use whatever incentive works with your teaching style and class, or none at all. I will not take down the tip, but I will change the incentive suggestion.

I don't personally give out a Homework Pass, but I understand your viewpoint. I allow the students to preview the book flier in class and I also read aloud one or two of the books that I think are good reads. I also have online ordering where parents can use their credit cards.

Thank you for your comment, Nancy

As a teacher with 31 years of experience in rural schools, I must take exception to the idea of giving students a "no homework" pass if they order $20 worth of Scholastic books. Grades are NOT dependent on whether a student can afford to purchase item--they are dependent of students' effort and perseverance. In today's economy, most students (and many teachers!!) cannot afford to subsidize a classrooom library, and should not be penalized for not doing so.

PLEASE consider removing tip#8--it is offensive and unrealistic.

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