I'll let you in on my little secret for finding great book bargains: USED BOOK SALES. You've probably heard about them or seen flyers at your local library for their annual book sale, but may not have paid any attention. It's time to start paying attention. Children's books are SO cheap at used book sales. Most libraries charge by the inch for children's and young adult books.
Here's how it works: you find all the books your heart desires and take them to the register. Then the cute little old lady in charge of the cash box (library book sales are almost always run by cute little old ladies) stacks up your books, places a ruler next to their spines, and only charges you $1 per inch.
Let me illustrate: I just visited my local library for their annual Spring Used Book Sale. Here is the stack of books I purchased for my classroom. As you can see, they measure a little over 2″ tall. That means I only had to pay a little over $2.00 for all of these books!
Now, I know exactly what you're thinking. In fact, I'm reading your mind right at this moment. You're thinking: That's all well and good but the books they sell at libraries are ancient and boring. No kid wants to read a bunch of outdated books. Plus, I know how my kids destroy books. I'm not going to pay for a bunch of torn, bent books that are falling apart. I don't care how cheap they are!
I know, I'm one fussy gal and I don't want to waste my money on junk either. Yes, I can promise that there will be outdated reading materials as your local Used Book Sale. But mixed in with the old materials, there will also be wonderful, high quality children's literature and popular titles by some of your favorite authors. These are the books that there in my 2″ stack. As you can see, they are not bent, torn, faded, or damaged. Some of them are practically brand new.
Need some new used books for your classroom? Here are a few tips to get you started:
Research Used Book Sales in your area. This one's easy. Just visit Book Sale Finder online and provide them with your email address, city, state, and zip code. Tell them how many miles you are willing to travel for a Used Book Sale and they will email you every week with a list of local book sales in your area. I love my weekly updates and I never get spammed from site. The emails also draw special attention to book sales featuring a particularly large volume of used books.
Visit your local library. Most libraries submit their book sale information to the Book Sale Finder website, but not all of them. My local library is wonderful and they have two HUGE book sales each year. Their Used Book Sales are never listed on the site. I'm not sure but I think it's because they consistently have a positive turnout from local residents (it's a really big community) and do not need to draw in residents from neighboring cities. Anyways, the point is- don't trust the email to list EVERY sale in your area. Keep your eyes open for them too!
When you find a good sale, keep going back! You will quickly discover that all Used Book Sales are not created equal. Most are pretty good, some are a bust. When you find a really great one, go back to it every year. Odds are, it will always be a good one.
A few additional notes …
Since drafting this post, others have shared their great ideas for obtaining used books as well.
- Annie over at The Moffatt Girls posted a few additional ideas for building a classroom library with used books. Hop on over and check it out.
- Colleen at The Teaching Chameleon recommended checking eBay to check sets of books from retiring teachers.
- Sandra from Classroom Companion suggested checking at school and church rummage sales for used book deals (children's books usually go for 25 cents each).