My first year of teaching, I walked into an nearly empty classroom. Literally, the classroom had a broken laundry basket filled with a few musty books with binding that had seen better days.
It was pathetic.
Plus, the school gave me a mere $100 for supplies-which included handwriting paper and construction paper. Even though I made less than a fast food worker my first year teaching, I was determined to have an epic classroom library.
By mid-year, I amassed nearly 2,000 picture books which I leveled and organized by genre.
Here’s 10 tips for growing your classroom library on a budget.
1.) Scour the thrift stores in affluent neighborhoods. Most families unload their books in the summer-once their kids have outgrown the previous year’s books. Their donation is your treasure.
2.) Hunt for garage and yard sales. At quite a few yard sales here in Chicago, I snapped up picture and early chapter books for 10 cents a pop! That’s cheaper than the thrift store! Upon striking up conversations, many people running these sales told me to come at the end of the sale-and take what didn’t sell. People are so kind once you mention you are a teacher.
3.) Use facebook or simply spread the word to your family and friends that you are on the mad hunt for books for your classroom. A neighbor of mine brought me nearly 200 books once I put the word out. In this day and age of social media, it can’t hurt to simply ask.
4.) Scholastic Warehouse Sales. Every May and December, Scholastic throws massive sales in their distribution centers, which are stocked with the latest and greatest. At the first one I went to back in 2002, I was able to fill a large cardboard box to the brim for a mere $25!
5.) Also, it pays to promote your Scholastic Book Clubs. Those bonus points add up quickly. I also passed it to my family and friends with kids who typically buy books for birthdays and holidays. The sheer amount of books I have from years of bonus points is unreal.
6.) Check discount stores like TJ Maxx, Marshalls, and Home Goods early and often. Here in Chicago, I find picture and chapter books for a dollar or two.
7.) Kids’ consignment stores often carry books for dirt cheap. Most shoppes carry vast amounts of gently used picture and chapter books for a fraction of the new retail price.
8.) Consult with your principal about throwing a fundraiser for building classroom libraries. When I taught 2nd grade, I spearheaded a committee that ran a dance which raised thousands of dollars. We put that money right back in the classrooms for much needed books!
9.) Check craiglist for teacher retirement sales in the summer and fall. I’ve scored not only books, but loads of materials, manipulatives, and even a rocking chair for next-to-nothing. We teachers love to collect our materials, and when the time is right, we pass them on. I sold about one-third of my classroom library a few years back, because it was getting too large. It felt incredible to spread the love to some enthusiastic first year teachers.
10.) If you work in am urban school, please consider using Donors Choose. I received a grant for books when I taught second grade in a impoverished neighborhood on Chicago’s West Side. Simply write up a proposal, and use your social media to fund it. Kickstarter and Indieagogo are also good options.
Some final thoughts:
Please set a budget. Please! It’s easy to get carries away like I did. My first year teaching, I spent over $2,000 of my own money on books and classroom supplies. Granted, I take my materials with me, but we need to keep in mind how easy it is to get carried away!
Plus, we need to be realistic and creative with the limited resources we do have.
I hope some of these ideas help you!
If you need classroom library labels for your preschool through 2nd grade classroom library, we have some affordable ones over at TpT!
If you level your library and need a set for guided reading:
Now that you’ve fallen in love with us- stay connected with us:Happy Book Bargain Hunting,Nicolette