You’ve decided that building a classroom library is a priority. Inexpensive book finds are a must!
Honestly, for years building a classroom library was never on my radar. I’ve been fortunate to always teach at a school with a library, and I thought that was sufficient.
A few years ago, Twitter and Instagram expanded my understanding of why high school teachers should have a classroom library. Schools asked students to read for pleasure. Research showed the power of students choosing their own books. The combination of these forces made me question why I had no books in my room.
I know that some teachers have always had classroom libraries, but from my experience secondary teachers building classroom libraries was a new experience. The process of building a classroom library was a complete trial and error experience. Overall, I searched for books and found success! For three years, I’ve built my classroom library, and I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished. Below, I’ve written about eight places I found books for my classroom library.
- Dollar stores. Someone told me she bought a book of poetry at her local dollar store, and I was in disbelief. So, I went. Yep! My local dollar stores have an awesome book selection. I asked a worker about the source, and she remained mum. I asked a different employee at a different branch of that same dollar store, and she revealed that two popular book suppliers drop a new book supply off monthly. I paid $1 each.
- Used book stores. I have made myself familiar at local used bookstores where books are relatively inexpensive. At each one, I’ve introduced myself, asked questions about pricing and stock, and shown my teacher ID. I’ve been rewarded with teacher discounts, free books, and insights to massive sales. One used bookstore infrequently will have $1 sales. Sure, I must arrive early, but these sales built my John Green and Sarah Dessen collections. Used bookstores also have books they can’t sell: torn, ripped, and broken spines. These books work well for black-out poetry and bulletin board decor.
- Goodwill. I find the most books at Goodwill. I’m sure the deals differ, but my local store runs specials. If I make a donation, I get a coupon for 20% off an item. Soft-back books are .99, and hard-back books are 1.99. Some weeks, the store has a sale on colors of tags… meaning that I can stock up on books for .50.
- Random thrift stores. I recently moved and needed to furnish a new home. While I hunted for bookshelves and knickknacks, I noticed that stores such as Habitat Restores have shelves of books. Inspired, I stopped by other thrift stores. Most of these stores did not have price tags on their books! That allowed me to explain that I was a teacher finding books for students, and many stores said I could pay .25 per book.
- Library sales. Libraries clean out their young adult literature sections and hold used book sales. Many of these books do not have flashy covers, but the material is interesting! The books are perfect for First Chapter Fridays. Again, many of these books were .25. A few times, I’ve been in a new town and searched for the town’s library. I won’t completely go out of my way, but I will swing by a library to check on sales.
- Garage sales. I have not found tremendous luck with garage sales, but since some proved plentiful, I wanted to mention this. I’ve found garage sales hit or miss, but I did find several sales from retired teachers or new empty-nesters. If someone advertises a sale, ask about their books before driving there.
- Facebook Marketplace. (Please be careful and trust your gut when going places. No book is worth compromising your safety!) I will flip through the marketplace irregularly, but I should probably utilize it more. So far, I have only done “porch pick up” where I leave cash in an envelope. I am very picky about where I travel.
- Scholastic. I check Scholastic monthly. They have $1 deals and sales. Last month, I bought a few copies of The Hunger Games for a dollar each. Last year, I Am Malala: Young Readers Edition was $2. Plus, if you ever use children’s books for activities in class, you can snag a few. Scholastic does have a teen section, but those books are a bit pricey. However, you can find some books for $4 or $5, and their sales change every month.
About two years ago, I decided that building a classroom library would become a professional goal. I knew that I needed to stock my classroom inexpensively. With a bit of research and building relationships, I managed to average about $1 per book.
My advice? Make friends with librarians, book store owners, and employees. Children and teens quickly grow out of books. Not every book will fit every reader, so some books will be in perfect condition. Books for your library are available. Building a classroom library inexpensively is possible. Don’t be afraid to show your teacher ID and make friends. Leave meaningful and kind feedback on local store’s Facebook pages; be sure the owners know your name and face!
I’ve had great luck! Once, an employee brought out boxes of books for me to explore. I’ve been allowed to fill a huge bag for $5. I’ve had books handed to me on my out the door “just because.” People are overwhelmingly compassionate to a teacher who is trying to put books in the hands of young readers. If you are building a classroom library, I hope these tricks help you!