1. At the beginning of the year, create a birthday book club to encourage parents to donate a copy of their child’s favorite book. Allow the child to inscribe the year and their name on the inside cover. Before placing the book on the shelf, encourage the student to share what they most like about the book. Most students love the attention and it will perpetuate more donations.
2. If your school has book fairs, create a wish list and get it out there before the sale. Not sure what titles to request? Ask your librarian for help or check out this list of the Top 100 Children’s Books of All-Time. Write short thank you notes for each donated book.
3. Allow students to order books through tried-and-true book clubs such as Scholastic. Those free points really add up, especially if you wait and use them during slow months when publishers offer special discounts. After saving points for two years, I once scored 90 free books!
4. A few organizations will actually send you free books just for asking. Free class sets of Ayn Rand books are available through a special program at Ayn Rand Education. For teachers working with students from low-income families, check out the free book program at First Book.
5. If you have some money to spend, try Half Price Books, or a similar discount, new/used bookstore in your area. Your dollars will go further and you’ll probably have fun browsing. One store in Texas offers teachers free books, so it might be worth a phone call to see if there’s a similar program in your area. Check here to find a store near you.
6. If you’re in a building where students sometimes bring teachers holiday gifts, do book talks on titles you’ve gotten from students in years prior. Gently mention that these were among the best holiday gifts any teacher could ever get.
7. Are your students reading ebooks? There are several free resources for a wide range of titles. Search “free books for teachers” to get started, or check out eBooks@adelaide and Amazon.com for
an idea of what’s out there.
8. Check with the librarians at both your school and public libraries. Ask that they contact you before getting rid of any books. Each year I comb through the books that have been purged from the library shelves and take any titles that fit my students’ reading levels. Sometimes the covers are a little out-of-date, but I put a colorful label on the spine and that seems to be enough to attract students’ attention.
9. If you recently started teaching a different grade, you might want to try trading your books for different ones. Check out Paperback Swap to learn more about this free program.
10. Finally, put a notice in your school’s newsletter asking for any books that children have “outgrown.” Those students you had two years ago may be ready to let go of books that are perfect for your current students. One generous parent donated over 10 books that were perfect for my students. If you can establish this “green” approach to “recycling” children’s books, you may not need to do anything else!
Have any other free or low-cost ideas? Please leave a post and share your favorite!
Check out this low-cost teaching unit for one of my favorite books, Little House in the Big Woods!