The area of my classroom I am most proud of is my classroom library. What started out as a respectable, but not so diverse collection of books, has quickly grown into something I can showcase. I’ve had students in awe of the selection shouting “This is like going to a real library!”. While there are definitely areas that are in need of some love and expansion, especially my non-fiction offerings, I’m consistently working to add to my library intentionally. I have been lucky in that I haven’t had to fund it all myself. There are so many ways to add to your library collection, but these are my most successful tips for funding your classroom library.
Build Your Classroom Library Early
I started purchasing books when I was in college. The Scholastic Warehouse Sale was in my area so I picked a few up there each year. I looked at thrift shops and resale stores. I purchased a few new books when I’d see them at Target or whever. As I discovered authors and fell in love with them, I bought a few of their books. I purchased many of my Chris Van Allsburg and Patricia Polacco collection many years ago, because I knew I wanted their books, and I’ve only continued to expand it. I wanted to have a decent sized library for my first classroom, and I knew I couldn’t afford to stock it straight out of the gate, so I bought a small amount of books each year so I could gradually add to my collection.
Once a teacher actually suggested that I not buy books because I wouldn’t know the grade level I’d teach. My library is non-grade specific. I keep most of my library out regardless of my grade-level for that year. As a teacher that’s looped, I’ve kept that same library for first through third grades with my students. There are a few dozen books I put away for lower grades and take out for older grades, but by in large, a good book is a good book and grade level doesn’t matter a ton. Whether I’m using them as mentor texts for me, or as self-selected options for my students, I want my library to offer a wide variety of texts and levels.
Don’t Be Afraid of Used Books
As I mentioned, I’ve purchased many second-hand books, especially when I was just starting out, or when I’ve changed grade levels. I look at the books anytime I’m in a thrift store like Goodwill and Salvation Army. I’ve used local library books sales to buy books. I’ve also purchased books from retiring teachers and garage sales. I have also happily accepted, and purchased, used books from friends as their kids have grown. My local used bookstore has been a great resource to pick up some new additions- especially the most popular books that tend to get donated when children have grown out of that series. People have also had a ton of success at Half-Price Books; there’s just not one near me. I’ve also had pretty good luck buying “lots” on Ebay. People list a collection of texts by a certain author or in a certain series for a decent price. I got a bunch of Goosebumps books and a collection of Berenstain Bears books this way. Used books are an affordable way to add to your library.
Get Support from Others
The single biggest way I’ve funded my classroom library is through support of family, friends, and strangers. I’ve had 4 successfully funded DonorsChoose projects for books for my library. I think of a need in my library, research books to fit the collection, and write a DonorsChoose project and explain that need. Many people love supporting projects for books. From graphic novels to intentional multicultural texts, the diversity of my library is due to these projects. Read my post on Getting Started on DonorsChoose for information on using it for your classroom’s needs. I’m happy to share ideas for getting books from DonorsChoose, as well. Send me a message with what your idea is, and I’ll help you get started.
Within the last year I’ve also started utilizing Amazon WishLists to also add books to my classroom library. I’ve posted on my social media pages about the specific books my students were requesting, added them to my list, and friends had them sent to me. One of the nice things about Amazon lists is that they’re so quick. I posted on my social media on Friday and had the books at my school on Monday! Adding items to an Amazon Wishlist is just as simple as adding it to your cart!
Funding Your Classroom Library with Scholastic
Probably the most well known way to fund your classroom library is with Scholastic. I’ve also used their services somewhat untraditionally.
I signed up with Scholastic Book Clubs many years ago. I’ve been able to add books to my collection using bonus points. But, my parents don’t utilize Book Clubs very often, so this wasn’t a quick strategy for me. I invest in my library using my own money in September when bonus point offerings are their highest. That helps me stockpile bonus points for the year that I use to get bigger ticket collections when I see them at good prices. I watch items each month and look to see what books I can get for $2 or less and try to add to my collection then.
My favorite way I’ve used Scholastic is through their book coupons, however. I buy them in September, again when bonus point offerings are their best. I use the coupons to allow students to add books to their home collection, but then I also use a few of the remaining ones to add a few additional books to our library. My friends have also helped me fund the purchase of the coupon books and that has helped this be an affordable option for me. My kids love receiving the free books, especially because they pick them out themselves. And, I love that I can add books to our library really affordably. Plus, the bonus points earned are amazing!
As I mentioned above, Scholastic Warehouse sales are great opportunities to buy books even cheaper than Scholastic typically offers. I was lucky that a Scholastic Warehouse was in the city that I attended college in so I was able to attend a few times. If you’re not sure if there’s a warehouse in your area, you can look at the Scholastic Warehouse search.
Do you have other ideas for funding your classroom library? I’d love to hear them in the comments below! For more information on my classroom library, including what I use for affordable storage, check out my Classroom Library Organization post. You may also like a few of my reading tees– perfect for wearing on dress down Fridays!