Where and how to buy children’s books!
I use children’s books all the time in my classroom! They build up a kid’s love for stories and they open up a child’s imagination to all sorts of things they haven’t experienced before. I use books as a springboard for any sort of activity. Want to bring in a lesson about creative movement? Start with a book about an animal that loves to dance. Have a plan to use food and food-themed words to get kids to arrange/create? Lead them into it with a book about a kid who has to try new food for the first time. Have a new song to teach that talks about a different culture/time period/place? Start with a story from that specific location or time and you’re all set.
Children’s books are an amazing tool to use in the music classroom but they can also be expensive. How do you fill your classroom library without breaking the bank? Below you’ll find a few ideas about how to get new books for your classroom without going into debt. You’ll hear a couple ideas about using Amazon to your advantage and you’ll see some of my favorite places to get discount books.
Amazon.com – Friend or Foe?
Amazon can be an amazing tool for your classroom if you know how to use it. They deliver quickly and have a huge variety of resources available. That said, I try to use Amazon wisely because I know that Amazon doesn’t need my business. If I buy one book from Amazon or from a different online retailer, Amazon won’t really feel a hit to their bottom line. However, local booksellers, music stores, and other smaller business rely on our patronage to stay afloat. So, if I have the option of buying a book from Amazon or buying it (even for a slightly higher price) at a local bookstore, local music store, or a place that caters to elementary music teachers I always try to buy from the little guy and not the behemoth.
That said, Amazon can be used in very strategic ways to get great resources for your classroom. One of the things I love about Amazon is that it’s like a Pinterest but for stuff. You know Pinterest, right? Find an idea you like, a recipe, or a picture that interests you and you can “pin it” and save the idea for later. Amazon is the same way. If I find a book I love or a resource that interests me I can save it when I put it in a wish list. It doesn’t mean you have to buy that book/resource from Amazon, but they’ll let you store all the great ideas in one place.
I’ve developed a ton of lists over the years with resources to use in the classroom. To make those lists shareable with y’all I’ve converted them to what Amazon calls “Ideas Lists.” I’ve organized them so that all the books about Halloween are in one place and all the children’s books about Black History Month are in another. In fact, I have book lists that are specific for all different sorts of things: holidays, cultures, musical concepts, songs, etc. Want to see some of the books that I’ve collected in my lists through the years? You can find all my lists for ideas here!
Do you have to buy from Amazon? No. But one thing I love about those Amazon listings is that for each book Amazon lists the title, author, illustrator, publisher, ISBN, and lots of other specific information. Even if Amazon doesn’t currently have the book in stock for sale they’ll have a page on their website where you can look at it. That means if you save a book to look at later you can buy it on Amazon or use the information listed there to find it from another retailer or look it up at your local library.
Buying Used Books Online!
I could spend hours in a used bookstore. I love to sit down in the children’s books section and pull out books one-by-one to see the themes and stories and brainstorm about if I could use them in my classroom. I do the same thing in a library! I head straight to the children’s book section and I go nuts looking through all the stories, thinking about how I might use them in lessons. There’s something so great about having the book in your hand and flipping through to consider all the options available to you.
But you don’t always have the time to get to an actual bookstore and honestly some places in the US just don’t have a ton of used bookstores nearby. That’s why I love to purchase from used bookstores online. These online booksellers find books by going to library discard events around the country. They pick up books that are still in really good shape and list them online. My students never care if the book I’m sharing with them is brand new or if it has a barcode on the outside or “Memphis Public Library Discard” stamped on the inside cover.
In fact, the great thing about former library books is that they usually come with a dust cover and sturdy binding. And don’t worry about the condition of the book. I’ve never bought a book from an online used bookstore or library discard that’s in bad shape because I don’t think librarians would discard/sell a book that can’t be used again. If it’s in truly bad shape librarians tape up/fix a book or discard and throw away the book.
Below you’ll find a few of my favorite online booksellers and my thoughts about each one! One piece of advice. Don’t get sucked in by the sticker price. Often a website will have the cheapest copy of a book compared to other sites BUT will charge you for shipping. I always try and find a site that’s gonna get me the best deal with book + shipping. All that to say, shop around! You have options.
And another thing, if you can’t find the book you’re looking for in one store CHECK THE OTHERS! That’s why it’s good to have three or four favorite online booksellers because each will have a different inventory depending on what’s available. So, if you can’t find the book you want (or at the price you want) from one bookseller, check another. You have options!
Used Book Websites to Try!
BetterWorldBooks.com – This is my ultimate go-to for buying children’s books online. Why? Well, they always seem to have the books I’m looking for, the prices are very low, the shipping is almost always free, and I can get discounts if I join the email list and actually look at those emails for their discount codes. They’re always doing some new sort of promotion or sale. I’ve bought a ton of things from them and have had great experiences!
ThriftBooks.com – Another great site with lots of books available. This site requires you to spend a certain amount of money to get free shipping (and I’ll be honest, I usually meet that threshold). Since I have to spend a certain amount of money to get free shipping (often $15 or $25 total purchase) I try to keep a list of books I’d be interested in so that I can order a few things in one shipment to get that free shipping. ALSO, there’s a special program for teachers where if you buy four books you get one more free. As an extra bonus, if you spend $30 on your first purchase we both get a free book!
ABEbooks.com – This one is always my “if I can’t find it on the other two websites” option. I haven’t had the luck with children’s books on this website that I’ve had with Better World Books. But I’ve purchased from this site and they usually have pretty competitive prices and a good selection.
BookOutlet.com – This one is a DIFFERENT type of website. These aren’t used books but NEW books that have been deeply discounted. Why? Well, think of this as the Overstock.com but for books. Whenever a local book store goes out of business this website buys up their stock. Or if a publisher prints too many of a certain book and can’t sell them Book Outlet goes and buys them up. Because these are NEW books they don’t always have the selection of another retailer, but they have untouched books at bargain prices. Once I even got a book that had been signed by the author for $2.99. Worth a look! If you click this link you’ll get a $5 coupon of your first purchase of $25 or more.
Alibris.com– I haven’t used this site much but I have friends who have had great success. I feel like they have a better selection of novels and books for an older audience compared to their children’s lit (but it just might be that they don’t always have the children’s books I’m looking for). One way to find more here is to click the “Kids and Young Adults” tab on the top of the page and then filter by the type of book you want.
HPB.com – This is the online bookstore wing of the brick-and-mortar “Half Price Books” store. They have a TON of books available but again you have to think about the price of the book PLUS shipping when making your decision.
Powells.com – Did you know that Powell’s Books in Seattle has a website that’ll ship all over the US? I didn’t know about this one until I started doing some searching. They’ve got a pretty great selection and good prices. My only problem with this website is that you can’t click on a “children’s books” tab like some other websites so that you can browse books made especially for kiddos. Great website if you know what you’re searching for but not so much if you just want to look around.
I hope that this post has given you some ideas about where to get discount children’s books so that you don’t break the bank when purchasing for your classroom. Have any other great hacks about where to find books? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!