“Every teacher is a reading teacher,” as the saying goes. No matter what grade or subject you teach, having a classroom library of some sort is an unofficial essential. As wonderful as it is to make a wide variety of books available to your students, any bibliophile knows that buying books can get expensive!
When I entered college as a dedicated education major, I knew that building a classroom library would take time and a lot of money, so I started slowly purchasing books and cataloging them in anticipation of my first classroom years down the road. Over the years, I have picked up some savvy shopping tips for scoring the best book deals that don’t break the bank or blow your budget.
Scoring Book Deals on a Budget
Did you know that their used children’s book selection retails for $.49 a piece? Talk about a deal! You definitely have to be prepared to weed through the selection, and it’s always hit or miss, but I have found tons and tons of great books in gently-used condition there over the years! If you teach an older grade, fear not — they sell used paperbacks for $.99 and used hardcovers for $1.49. Plus, tax-free shopping every day!
- Yard sales
Look for those that advertise that they’re selling children’s items or a former teacher's classroom stuff. For the best selection, you’ll want to shop earlier in the day, but if you wait until almost closing time, you can often score HUGE deals. My husband’s grandmother is the QUEEN of yard sales, and she has been known to leave with a huge box of books at the end of the day for $5 or less. Even if you end up with some books you don’t want or don't end up using, you can’t go wrong with that kind of a deal!
- Used book stores (like 2nd and Charles or Powell’s)
If you can find a used book store with a good children’s book selection, you’ve hit the jackpot! Books in used stores can still be a bit pricey sometimes, but I love to look for sale and clearance racks. I have personally found that small, local, independently-owned used bookstores tend to have the lowest prices. If you have a 2nd and Charles nearby, they have a teacher sale twice a year (fall and spring) where you can save extra 25% on purchases with a teacher ID. Also, they will buy back books for cash or store credit (pro tip: you get more money if you take the store credit). If you clean out your personal library or find duplicates of classroom library books, you can easily turn them into more books for your classroom!
- Scholastic Book Club
I don’t know about you, but getting these flyers as a student was one of the highlights of my elementary school years. One of the great things about sending Scholastic Book Club flyers home with your students is that you earn points for every order they place, which you can then redeem for free books! As a savvy shopper, I would search for book deals in each month's flyer and buy them myself for the classroom; there are always monthly deals you can get for $1-$2, plus book packs that are often deeply discounted per book! Scholastic's online ordering page also gives you the option to create a wishlist for your classroom; I would definitely take advantage of this since you never know when a generous parent will buy a book for you!
- Scholastic Warehouse Sales
If you happen to live in an area where there is a Scholastic warehouse nearby, be sure to take advantage of their biannual warehouse sale! To learn about an upcoming event in your area, sign up for their email list here.
- Amazon.com Warehouse Deals and Book Deals
Never heard of Amazon’s Warehouse Deals? I hadn’t either, until I happened upon them by coincidence a few years ago. Books sold under the Warehouse Deals page are books they can’t sell as “new” because of things like minor scratches, bent pages or bindings, etc. They can still be a bit pricey, but I like to sort by “children’s books” and “price: high to low,” then scroll through the selection to see what I can find. The best part is that the “damage” to most of the books I’ve bought through Warehouse Deals is so minor that it’s almost laughable, especially considering what students put books through on a regular basis.
Book Deals are new books sold at a special discount. If you check out the left-hand navigation on the page, you’ll see you can “Shop By Price” and choose “Books under $5.” I’ve scored a ton of brand new classroom books for $1-$3 this way, and the best part is that it doesn’t break the bank!
- Library book sales
Many public libraries will have annual book sales to clean out duplicates or old stock. One of the great things about these books is that they have a library binding, which makes them more durable than your average classroom library book. Plus, proceeds support a worthwhile cause!
- Donations from family and friends
I’ve acquired many children’s books from family members and friends who have outgrown the children’s books in their home library and were more than willing to donate them to my classroom. It never hurts to ask!
Don't Forget about Other Types of Media
I'd love to hear your tips and tricks for building your classroom library! Where do you score your best book deals? Do you know of any booksellers that offer teacher discounts? Let me know in the comments below!