Now, I'm guessing that if you're reading this post, you are looking for answers to one or both of these two questions:
- Why do we need class libraries (especially if we already have a school library)?
- How do I go about building an effective class library without going broke?
Importance of the Class Library
- Students in classrooms with well-designed classroom libraries interact more with books, spend more time reading, demonstrate more positive attitudes toward reading, and exhibit higher levels of reading achievement (Kelley & Clausen-Grace, 2010).
- Access to books in the classroom results in increased motivation and reading achievement (Guthrie, 2008; Kelley & Clausen-Grace, 2010; Worthy & Roser, 2010).
- Schools that have classroom libraries with large supplies of books have students who read more frequently and students who read more successfully (Allington, 2006).
10 ways to Build your class library
In May, I attended the Scholastic Warehouse sale. Imagine books as far as the eye can see, books on sale from 20-80% off, and discounts for teachers- It was Heaven! But here's the real secret- If you sign up as a volunteer during the sale, you will get paid $10/hour in Scholastic Gift Certificates! Volunteers are eligible for the sale prices and do not pay sales tax, but must spend the gift certificates at the warehouse sale (twist my arm!). I worked two four-hour shifts and walked out of there with 36 books having only paid $12. Heaven!
If your school is hosting a Scholastic Book Fair, ask your librarian if he/she will keep a "wish list" of books you would like from the fair. Any students or parents who would like to get a book for your or your classroom will simply have to consult the list. Easy peasy (lemon squeezy).
Reading Club Flyer
I remember getting Scholastic book flyers all throughout elementary school. It was the best when my mom could be persuaded to let me order something- She'd write the check, cut out the order form, and I would joyfully turn them in to my teacher. What I didn't know was that every book I ordered through my teacher earned him or her FREE books and resources for his/her classroom!
2. Half Price Books
Sell your Books
We've all got old books, textbooks, DVDs, and the like lying around that we aren't interested in any longer. Fill a box and head down to HPB to see if you can sell them! That will start a little fund for purchasing new books that are more likely to be used (and loved!)
In addition to their reduced sales prices, HPB also offers a 10% off discount to teachers. I didn't know this the first time I purchased books for my classroom, but the cashier wasn't about to let me spend more money than I needed to. Out of pure excitement about my first purchase for my class library, I shared that I had just signed my teaching contract and was determined to get started on my class library. The attendant congratulated me, gave me the discount, told me to come in with my teacher ID to sign up for more discounts, and reminded me to write-off my first classroom purchase. I love HPB :)
Free Books on Saturday
Now, I'm told that on Saturdays at 9am, HPB warehouses put out all the books they're willing to give away for free for teachers to rummage through. It's first come, first serve and recommended you bring boxes to cart away your loot. Haven't been yet myself, but you better believe I'm planning on it!
Million Book Project
HPB's Million Book Project seeks to donate books to worthy causes, classrooms, and libraries in order to further facilitate the reading and recycling of books. You can apply to receive a book donation here.
Why not apply for a grant? These books will be for your classroom and will directly benefit your students. Search your district website for the specific grants that they recommend or offer, ask your PTA, and also look into the Book Love Foundation, Adopt a Classroom, & Donors Choose (there are more, if you're feeling ambitious).
At our school, our amazing librarian supports the idea of classroom libraries and knows exactly what kids are reading. She has been an awesome source and the perfect guide to starting my own library. Knowing that I am on the hunt for books, she also lets me know when she is getting rid of books and lets me take my pick. My advice? Befriend your school's librarian. You can't go wrong with the help of someone whose job is all about books!
Your local library could also be a great resource. During summer reading programs, our library gives away books to participants. Also, once or twice a year they hold a Friends of the Library sale at which they sell duplicate/older books for a fraction of the cost. You can use the website booksalefinder.com to track when local library sales are occurring in your area.
This is something I haven't done, but it comes highly recommended. Library conferences occur at both state and national levels through varying associations. Participants can sign-up to attend sessions or simply buy an exhibits-only pass where authors and publishers are advertising new books by GIVING AWAY FREE COPIES. Yes Please!
5. Student Donations
I am all about asking students and parents to contribute to my class library. When students look on my website for a list of school supplies they will need for my class, they also see an option to donate new/ gently used books or $5 gift certificates to Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble. I also include a link to my Amazon Wish List so they can see which books we still need. Let them know you want books for your birthday, tell parents about your wish list at Back to School Night, and ask students if they have any books they've read that they don't need or want any longer. You could even hold a Book Drive at the beginning of the school year. When you are given a book, ALWAYS find a way to properly express your gratitude for donations. You can also have students write a short "donated by" note on the inside so that their thoughtful gift will be recognized and remembered for years to come.
During the holidays, I plan to keep a Giving Tree in our classroom. Instead of ornaments, the tree will be decorated with the names of books I would like for our class library. Students who wish to give a book simply select one of the titles.
6. Used & Discounted Books
Time to get down and dirty with some bargain shopping! Don't forget to peruse thrift stores, dollar stores, garage sales, yard sales, Book Outlet, Bargain Book Shop, craigslist.org, or freecycle.org. It's not always glamorous, but you may find some gems that make it worth your while.
7. Drawings & Giveaways
What about applying for book giveaways? This is a little less probable than my other ideas, but it's fun :) Publishers do it. Blogs do it. Keep an eye out, and why not! Goodreads & Mr. Shu Reads are a couple good places to start.
8. Books by the Foot
Again, this isn't something I've tried, but it could be a quick way to build a substantial library. Books by the Foot is a fun website to explore if you are a book lover, but for our purposes, I will focus on the boxed children's books. For $30, they will send you a 45 lb. box of about 100 books. You don't know what books you'll get until they arrive, but that's a lot of book for your buck!
Hosting a Read-a-thon can be a fun way to motivate readers and accumulate books for your class library. The idea is that students who wish to participate will come to your school library on a Saturday and read as much as they can for a set amount of time. Before the event, they will have had their adult acquaintances fill out pledge forms, committing to donate a predetermined amount of money for every chapter the student reads. As the teacher, you will likely want to find donors too who will sponsor snacks, beverages, and prizes. I love the idea of doing a drawing in conjunction with the Read-a-Thon, where students earn a ticket for every chapter they read. Prizes could include bookmarks, reading lights, books (how cool if they were signed by authors!), "fandom" gear (mugs, t-shirts, posters, etc.), bookshelves, or maybe even an Ereader!
10. Ask Around!
Make it known to your friends, family, and social media followers that you are in the market for books. Trust me, they've got books they'd be happy to donate. As a first year teacher, this has also been a great way for my family to celebrate my new job and support my career.
I hope this helps! Now you tell me- What am I missing? How have you gathered books on the cheap for your class library?