If you want to encourage early literacy, having an inviting, well stocked classroom library is essential. Carving out a corner of your room devoted to relaxing into a good read can prime early learners to become lifelong bookworms. It can, though, be both costly and time consuming.
You may have inherited some well-worn titles from previous teachers that are now dog-eared and ripped, or your budding readers may have already exhausted your thin collection and you need fresh material to keep their interest. Chances are you already blew through your budget earlier this year, so the prospect of new titles for your classroom library may seem daunting.
Take a look at the following six resources for free or heavily discounted titles that can salvage your library without breaking the bank.
*Guest Post by Kaz Weida
1: Literacy Programs
There are quite a few literacy programs out there, most of whom offer support to districts that have a higher percentage of low income students. Check out the following sites to see if you qualify for some free books:
Many organizations offer grants for educators looking to supply their classrooms with books. Check out the following sites to see the requirements. If you’ve never written an application for a grant before, connect with other teachers in your school who have and can supply some great tips. Or check out this article from the NEA, about how to get started with grant writing.
- National Home Library
- Snapdragon Book Foundation
- Build-A-Bear Foundation
- Laura Bush Foundation
- Dollar General Literacy Foundation
3: Bargain Books
If you’re looking for specific titles or to add some new classics quickly to your classroom offerings, you may need to invest a few dollars wisely. The following retailers offer deeply discounted books and a few combine those discounts with affordable pricing for educators
A special word about Amazon. You can search for deals in books a few ways, including going to the “bargain book section” or their “deals in books” tag or even “blowout books” or “goldbox deals”. Keep in mind that while Amazon doesn’t offer a teacher’s discount (yet), they do allow educators to utilize the same free prime membership that students enjoy.
- Amazon Bargain Books
- Free Amazon Prime for Educators
- Barnes & Noble Bargain Books
- Barnes & Noble Educator Discount
- Thrift Books (These are second hand titles. You can pick the condition before you purchase.)
- Thrift Books Teacher’s Discount Code
- Half Price Books Bargain Basement
Scholastic has been a great resource for teachers looking to earn some free titles for decades. Most teachers are aware of their circulars that provide points towards free books for every title purchased. There are, however, a few other ways to maximize your dollars at Scholastic.
- Warehouse Sales – These events happen periodically around the country, so check the site often for an upcoming sale near you.
- Scholastic Reading Club – When you join up as an educator, you’ll get information about discounts, advanced sales, promotions and contests.
- Book Club Bonus Points – If you want to understand how to earn bonus points and how to use them, check out the book club page for more details.
5: Second Hand & Local Options
I’ve provided these resources in the order that I would advise working them. You’ll notice Ebay is right at the top. I suggest buying large lots of children’s books if you are just getting started establishing a library. You can get hundreds of gently used titles for a dollar a piece, and then explore other options to fill in the gaps in your collection.
- EBAY: Focus on buying lots and stick to paperbacks to save on shipping.
- Craig’s List
- Thrift stores (Salvation Army, Savers and more): Many thrift stores, like Savers, have discount days so sign up to receive advanced notice of book sales.
- Salvation Army
- Local or online classified ads
- Varage Sale
- Garage/Yard sales
- Library sales
6: Solicit Donations
Sometimes, when you need a helping hand, you just gotta ask. Here are a few options that might inspire support and keep your students well supplied with reading material for the rest of the year.
- Ask your principal. It’s possible there a few stray dollars from the budget that could be thrown your way. You’ll never know unless you ask.
- Partner with other teachers. Perhaps start a book drive where students can bring in the gently used titles they’ve grown out of and donate them to other classrooms where they could be put to good use.
- Ask parents. You can simply make it known that you’d like some titles for your library in lieu of appreciation gifts or other donations. You can even create a wish list on Amazon and post it to the classroom blog or website. Having a book fair soon? Some schools advertise what titles teachers would like from the fair and give parents the option to purchase them.
- Donors Choose. This site allows you to post your needs and then helps you obtain support from your own network and theirs to reach your goals. The site claims that 75% of teachers who register with them get their projects fully funded.
Once you’ve got your classroom library bursting with interesting reads, check out some great resources about how to make an inviting space for your students and how to catalog and care for your library, including links to free printable labels. I hope these resources bring a bundle of new interest and spark your student’s imaginations. Enjoy and happy reading!
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Kaz Weida is a SAHM and freelance writer based in Salt Lake City. She’s a serious bibliophile, obsessed with trees and a staunch believer that coffee can cure most of the evils in the world. She has decades of experience in education and behavior management, but still finds herself saying things her mother said like ALL THE TIME. She writes about parenting failures, baking and revelations that come years too late to be useful over at thelittlethingstransformation.blogspot. Her work can be found on sites like Scary Mommy, Wink Books, Parachute and Life Hacks. You can follow her on Facebook or see her pinning obsessively right before birthday parties on Pinterest.