Where do you get all of those books? Developing a Classroom Library on a Teacher's Budget.

It would be difficult to walk into my classroom without recognizing that there seem to be books everywhere.  What started out as one library corner of the room, has evolved into the entire classroom feeling a bit more like a library.  (No complaints here!)

My students, and fellow teachers, are always asking me where I get all of those books.  As we all know, money is not always plentiful in the teaching profession, so we learn to be master budget shoppers, and I have certainly developed a routine for buying the books that my students love.  I wanted to share some of my favorite places to buy books for my classroom library.

Library Sales - Seriously, fellow teachers, these are the places to go.  I stalk the library sale ads like they were the good Easter candy on sale after the holiday.  I have never found a place that offers so many great books for such unbelievably cheap prices. Of course this will vary wildly depending on where you live, but they are certainly worth checking out. Our library used to only sell old books that they could no longer keep in circulation. A few years ago, however, they started taking donations from people in the community, and suddenly it was a game changer.

I often buy books that look brand-new for 25 or 50 cents.  I buy multiple copies of books for our classroom Book Clubs, and I even buy audiobooks to use during silent reading.  I typically leave with anywhere between 50-100 books, and I usually do the same the next night.  I always hit up the library sales in my town, but I have started looking at the surrounding cities as well, and they have proven to be well worth the drive.  My husband often has to go with me just to help carry my extra boxes to the car.  My students LOVE when I get back from a library sale!

Thrift Stores - You always want to check out your local thrift stores, like Goodwill, Salvation Army, or Savers.  Whatever you happen to have in your town.  I typically find good chapter books from anywhere between 50 cents and $1.50 per book. It can add up quickly if you buy like I do, but just think about how much you would be spending if you were buying at a bookstore!

Half Price Books - If you do not have Half Price Books in your area, I just have a few words for you: I am SO sorry.  If I could live at a HPB, I think that I would.  I would say that the majority of the books in my classroom library have come from here.  When they closed down our local HPB a few years ago, I was truly devastated.  I still get sad when I drive by that building.  Luckily, though, there are 3 other locations within about an hour's drive.  Let's just say, that stretch of the highway is familiar with my car.  

If you are going to travel to a Half Price Books, I want to make one huge suggestion: hit the clearance aisle FIRST.  Every store that I have been to has had a clearance aisle, and there has always been a children's section.  I spend the majority of my time in this section because the books are typically only $1. I can't tell you how many times I have seen the same book, same edition, in the same condition, in another area of the store for considerably more money, so always check the clearance section first. 

Another great thing about HPB is that they offer a 10% teacher discount card, so most of the books that I buy for my classroom cost me 90 cents.  Not too shabby.

Garage Sales - These can be very hit or miss, of course, but I have found some absolute steals at garage sales.  Earlier this year I found 80+ classic Goosebumps books at a garage sale for $20 and I thought my students' eyes were going to pop out of their heads the next morning. Last year I got almost the entire Geronimo Stilton series, all read only one time, for practically nothing. One time I was buying books and when the woman found out that I was a teacher spending my own money, she gave me all the books that I had in my hand for free.  It may not be something that I do every week, but I have been amazed at what I could find when I take the time to hunt for it.

Donors Choose - I have only done one Donors Choose project in my career, but I was able to get the entire collection of Julia Cook social skills books for my classroom, and those have proven to be invaluable to my students.  My next project is going to be for graphic novels.  I cannot wait!

I hope that you will be able to use these ideas to find new books for your classroom without having to spend the money you planned to use on food or electricity this month.  If you have other ideas for finding reasonably priced books on a teacher's budget, I would love to hear about it!

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