The most important back-to-school teacher supply was not featured in our Top 20 Teacher School Supply list: Books! Books are a staple in every classroom, but brand new books are worth a hefty buck. Often schools don’t supply teachers with a classroom library and teachers are burdened with the task to buy their own books. I have faced this dilemma several times. I’ve had to build a kindergarten library one school year, to then create a fully Spanish first grade library the next year. Along the way, I’ve learned a few tricks on finding books at a bargain price. So if you are beginning your teaching career or have recently switched grade levels, take a look at the tips to affordably build your classroom library.


  • Go to Local Yard Sales: Make sure to hit up yard sales in your search for classroom books. Sometimes people sell books their kids have outgrown. Other times you might get lucky and come across a retired teacher’s yard sale. A great thing about yard sales is you can negotiate the price of items.
  • Visit Thrift Stores: Take a look at thrift stores, as they may offer a wide selection of secondhand books. Search through and find books as low as fifty cents a piece. I recommend visiting Salvation Army.
  • Check out Libraries: Keep a lookout for books sales held by your local library. Most libraries have sales to clean up their stacked bookshelves. Find books at a steal at these sales!
  • Ask for Donations: As the classic Beatles song goes, you get by with a little help from your friends. So if you need books, don’t feel shy about asking for donations. Family or friends with children may have gently used books they are looking to get rid of. Your class parents may have some too. Before the school year starts, ask family and friends for children’s books. Later on open house, ask parents for used book donations. Also consider working with your school’s PTO/PTA to help with book donations. At my school, the PTO had teachers create book wish lists for book fairs. The wish list was shared with parents and I received a handful of books. Another option is to use DonorsChoose. Create a project to build a classroom library and share the project link with family and friends. I have had quite a few friends get their projects fully funded by family, friends, and even kind samaritans.
  • Use Scholastic Reading Club: This past school year I fell in love with the Scholastic Reading Club program. The Scholastic Reading Club allows students to order books online or through flyers. For every order, your class accumulates bonus points, which can then be redeemed for free books. Send out scholastic flyers every month and encourage parents to order books through Scholastic to receive more bonus points. I let parents know that with each purchase, they are making a contribution to the classroom library. Throughout the course of the year, I was able to order over 30 brand new books free of charge. The Scholastic flyers also offer monthly dollar deals.
  • Search for Grants: Several organizations offer literacy grants to teachers in need of books. For example, First Book sells books at discounted prices for Title I teachers, but also offers grants from corporate partners. Through First Book, I was able to receive a $200 book grant from JetBlue. Some grants may require an application or an essay. Find fellow teachers who have grant writing experience, or look for writing tips online. To search for grants in your area, the NEA website is good place to start!
It may take time to build a classroom library, but don’t break the bank  doing so!
Are there other bargain books finds to add to the list? Comment below.
How to Build a Classroom Library

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