Written by Casey Jeffers, Owner of Fair Winds Teaching & MSEA Second Grade Teacher
Setting up your classroom library can be a daunting task. Whether you are a brand new teacher or a teacher switching grade levels (this is a big deal because not all books are appropriate for all ages). Here’s my guide to collecting books from multiple locations without breaking the bank!
Where do I get my books from?
My favorite website to buy classroom books is Scholastic Book Clubs! Check out the best ways to earn points and FREE books year-round. Then you also can’t beat the deals that they have each month, a lot of them being only $1 a book!
Earning BONUS POINTS – Always fill out your back-to-school form to update your class size to earn your 100 points each year, save ALL the emails from Scholastic throughout the school year to build up coupon codes for your next order, and have a notebook to write down codes when they come up on the Scholastic IG/Facebook pages. I collect so many points throughout the year to earn so many FREE BOOKS and school supplies! If you don’t have a Scholastic Book Club account yet, use this link to earn a FREE 250 Bonus Points from me!
Birthday Coupons – In the beginning of each school year, you get an offer to buy a class book of b’day coupons. Each pack comes with 30-32 FREE book coupons and they are each worth up to a $5 FREE book. That is upwards to $160 worth of books, for a cost of $30.00! I have bought these for my students in the past and handed them out for their birthdays. They are to take them home and select their book with their family online. I don’t do that anymore because most of them lost the coupon or forgot to log on and redeem their book. Instead, I have them work with me on their birthday to select a $4-$5 book (no less than that- getting the best value) to buy a book with the coupon code on my account to add to our classroom library. Then when it comes in the mail, that student gets to present it to the class as a gift! They get to put their name in the book as a donation, it makes them so happy. That stocks my classroom with 32 new books each school year for $30!
Family Book Orders – Making the Scholastic Book flyers available to your families helps build your points so you can buy some classroom books for your classroom as well. Here are some of my favorite tips for boosting family orders!
- Let families know that every order, no matter how small or big, earns FREE Books for your classroom. Use this pack to help boost sales and recommend your families! This gets families involved by sharing your Class Code for online ordering and letting them know they can choose a FREE $5 Book with every $25 online order with code READS.
- Share photos of all the FREE Books and resources your class has earned. A picture is worth a thousand words! I even do #BookBoxDay unboxing videos for my students and families!
- Send home reminder armbands with the due dates and their wish lists, both of these are available in this pack!
Family/Friends for Donations
The second place I go to collect books is simply by asking family and friends. I use my personal and professional social media platforms to post about a need for used or new classroom books. You would be surprised how many households are sitting on dozens of children’s books that they don’t use anymore. I’ve had families with high schoolers now that hadn’t gotten rid of any of their elementary-aged books and simply had them sitting in a box in their garage. They were happy to donate and get them out of their space. It never hurts to ask! I especially reach out to my retired teacher friends! Then I go through the books and then any repeats I have I offer to other new teachers or give to the students to take home to start their library.
Visiting Your Local Public Library
Have you ever been to your local public library? Did you know they are always getting rid of books that are now out of circulation? My grandmother used to volunteer at our local library and she would say that books that weren’t checked out super often, had too many copies, or were a little damaged would be taken out of circulation. These were always donated but sometime she would be able to bring some home to be (knowing I was a classroom teacher). It is always good to ask or give them your contact information in case they have books to get rid of.
Amazon Wish-lists (#ClearTheList)
Have you heard!!?? Celebrities, companies, influencers, and so many other people are helping to #ClearTheList of teachers’ Amazon wishlists! If you haven’t made one yet, it is your time to take a second and add classroom books and other amazing supplies!
How to make a list:
- Login to your Amazon account
- Go to “Account & Lists” at the top right corner
- Click on “Your Lists”
- Create a list (make sure it’s public)
- Add items or books that you find on Amazon (if you want some classroom list ideas, check my favorites out here!)
If you want to share it with friends & family, click “Invite,” copy the link, send it out, or share it on your social media pages.
If you make your Amazon wish list, reach out to some local companies or popular businesses online and see if they would be willing to help out and donate. I use Twitter and Linkedin to reach out to a lot in my local area. Write them a letter introducing yourself, telling them a little about your school and students, and then tell them how they can help.
Thrift Stores/Facebook Selling Groups-
One of my favorite summertime activities is strolling through a good thrift store. Whether it’s a GoodWill, Wonder Book & Video, ReStore, or any local company, you can find gently used books for a very cheap rate. Make sure to save your receipts so you can write them off your taxes!
You can also join your local Facebook teacher groups (mine is called Teachers Sell Stuff (city, State) and see if anyone has books available for purchase.
As you are selecting books for your classroom make sure you gather a wide variety of books. I try to have some leveled books, picture books, just for fun books, magazines, comics, graphic novels, chapter books, maps, and much more. Get creative, the kids love a diverse set of things to get their hands on.
Other Helpful Classroom Library Tips and Tricks:
Make sure to have book bin labels for your students to be able to find and organize their books. Here is the set I use to label my 2nd-grade classroom. Hang some signs to help students to select their “Just Right Book,” grab this FREEBIE here. I also make sure to label ALL books that come into my classroom so I don’t lose track of them. I use these mermaid ones on Avery shipping labels (30 per page).
Where to buy your bins?? My favorite places are Storex, Dollar Store, The Target Dollar Spot, Walmart, Ikea (have the kids decorate them), or the DIY option, start collecting cereal boxes now! Simply save larger cereal boxes and cut them down like the pictures below. Cover them with paper, spray paint them, or leave them with the kids’ favorite cereal pictures.
Good luck and happy building up your library! 🙂
Casey Jeffers is a second-grade teacher at Butterfly Ridge Elementary in Frederick County, Maryland. She was recently recognized as the national winner of the NEA Foundation’s 2021 Teaching in Excellence Award. Casey is the proud owner of the Education Resource Blog, Fair Winds Teaching, and loves to connect with her education community through her TeacherPayTeacher’s business.
- Mark D. Pitchford, Has Been Elected Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of California Casualty - July 22, 2022
- Lesson Planning – Classroom Transformations! - July 19, 2022
- Swimming Pools and Your Homeowner’s Insurance - July 15, 2022