15 Inexpensive Ways to Build Your Classroom Library


When I think about my time in school, I always think back to a specific moment. I was in third grade, and I finished my work early. My teacher told us that we could read a book from the class library until the rest of the class finished. I sat down, in the beanie bag chair and read the book I chose, and I remember being happy. Today, I think back and I hope that another kid gets to sit in a comfy chair and also feel that sense of pure happiness.

Creating a classroom library can quickly become an expensive project. We know how hard you work and how little you are compensated, so finding deals is our mission. Let’s talk about Inexpensive Ways to Build Your Classroom Library. I personally use #8 all the time. 

Inexpensive Ways to Build your Classroom Library #1 – Facebook Marketplace 

Everyone’s Facebook MarketPlace looks a little different. And maybe you’re not like me and yours is not inundated with used books and old camera lenses. But, a quick search for “children’s books” and you can have a never-ending list of possible books to put in your classroom library. 

2. Thrift Shops 

I love thrifting. It is such a thrill not knowing what you are going to find. But, much to my friend’s dismay, I always pop into the book section of a thrift store. Much like a yard sale, you don’t always find a gold nugget but when you do, you know it will be a deal. The key to thrifting is definitely patience, so always keep an open mind when it comes to looking for books at a thrift store. 

Classroom Library Pro Tip

While you are looking through used bookstores or sifting through the shelves at a thrift shop keep an eye out for books you can pair with activities like this How to ‘Bee’ Calm worksheet.

3. Yard Sales 

I don’t know about you, but I never pass up a yard sale. This is most likely a leftover habit from when I was a kid and would drive around with my grandma for hours looking for the best deal. Of course, there is not always a gem to be found but every once in a while there is that diamond in the rough that makes stopping at the yard sale totally worth it. 

Inexpensive Ways to Build your Classroom Library #4 – Create a Reading Binder 

This may not be an actual book but it is still reading material for your students. Use your ETTC Premium Membership to build your students a binder.  Throughout the year, we use fluency passages to practice reading speed and comprehension. After we have used these passages in small groups, or as independent practice, they are placed in the student’s reading binder. By the end of the school year, they have a binder filled with a variety of fiction and non-fiction stories they can practice reading all summer long.

5. Used Bookstores 

A used book store is a gold mine when it comes to finding books to fill your classroom library. I might just be a little bit of a book collector but I can almost never walk into a used book store without walking out of it holding a stack of books as tall as I am. The trick is to find the deals within the book store. There is usually a 50-cent rack or a four-for-a-dollar section. These are the places that will really fill your classroom library. I mean who can turn down a four-for-a-dollar deal! 

Classroom Library Pro Tip

With your newly acquired books try hosting a book exchange. Each of my students brings in a gently used book from home to exchange for another book. This way, the students are going home with a book that is “new” to them. It has become an annual event in my classroom that my past students talk about year after year. (Make sure that you include a few books as well, just in case you have a few students who forget.)

6. Say Yes to Hand-me-Downs

Obviously, this one is a little tricky because you don’t have control over when people offer to give you books. But I know as a person on a budget, it is always worth saying yes. Keep an ear out for co-teachers that are retiring or leaving the teaching profession. They are most likely going to be passing on many of their books, as storage for those at home is difficult to find. (And spouses always ask if they “really” need to keep all of those books. LOL)

Inexpensive Ways to Build Your Classroom Library #7 – Take Donations 

At the beginning of the year, I typically let parents know some of the things that we are going to need in the classroom that is out of the norm. Things like tissue, hand sanitizer, extra paper towels, stuff like that. I like to add to my list grade-level appropriate books. The idea is that when families clean out their kid’s rooms or have books from older children they can donate them to the classroom library, and their child and their friends will have access to the books all year long. 

8. Use Mini-Books

I love to send little readers home with my students that we have used in small groups or literacy stations. These mini-booklets are themed throughout the year, help students work on sight words,  are great for beginning readers, and help students practice the alphabet and related phonics skills. They really take pride in being able to bring those booklets home and read them to family members.

Classroom Library Pro Tip

Use your ETTC Premium Membership to download all of these for only $9.99

Inexpensive Ways to Build your Classroom Library #9 – Scholastic $1 Books

So, this past year Scholastic had its $1 book sale and teachers struggled with receiving their books in a timely fashion. This is obviously a huge sale and a popular one, but it is not the only one. Throughout the summer and the school year, Scholastic has 50% Off sales, or right now they are having a 25% off sale. 

10. Kindle Unlimited

This is a little tricky because it is a subscription. But, if you are doing classroom read-alouds or have an award system in place that gives students access to classroom tablets or computers a subscription-like this could be a really easy and fun way to encourage students to read while also being affordable. 

11. Audible 

Similar to Kindle Unlimited, Audible is an audiobook subscription that gives you access to an unlimited amount of audiobooks. Building up a classroom library is hard and it takes years but having access to audiobooks to play throughout the day or while your kids are doing classwork is a great way to subsidize an up-and-coming classroom library. 

Inexpensive Ways to Build your Classroom Library #12 – Use Digital Resources 

Stay on the digital theme with Digital Fluency Passages. Use this as a supplement to your normal reading time or project the passage onto your smart board and use these passages along with the comprehension questions as your read-aloud.

13. Thriftbooks.com 

I personally have never used this website but I have heard really great things about it. The idea is similar to something like eBay or even an actual thrift store. I said before that I love thrifting because you never know what you are going to find and the same thing applies to this website! 

Classroom Library Pro Tip 

The thing that is special about the internet is that you can literally find anything you want. So, if you are using a website like Thriftbooks.com, Audible, or Kindle Unlimited you can search for specific books and pair them with STEM and Story Challenges. I know when my class realizes that we are working on a STEM challenge there is literally excitement in the air!

Inexpensive Ways to Build your Classroom Library #14 – Amazon Prime Day/Deals 

Prime day is like the teacher version of hitting the jackpot! And books are a huge part of the deal you can get on Prime Day. This year Prime Day is going to be July 12th and 13th, so get started on adding those books you are hoping to buy to your shopping lists, so you can keep tabs on the sales! 

Classroom Library Pro Tip

It doesn’t have to be Prime Day for there to be a deal on Amazon. There are often sales, coupons, and discounts on items throughout the year. So, if there is a particular book you are looking for and are hoping to find it cheap, definitely check your Amazon app to see if it is on sale.

15. Monthly Mini-Books or Alphabet Foldables

Trust me, we know how much time and money it takes to build up a classroom library. So, why not have your students build thier own little libraries by using Monthly Mini-Books. Or, for younger students, Alphabet Foldables. With these two resources you can decide what topics or letters you want to use and when you want to use them. Giving you the power to write your own story (excuse the pun).

If you are looking for more tips and tricks or are hoping to get some fresh ideas you can bring into your classroom this coming fall join any of our Fearless Facebook Groups, like our Facebook Kindergarten Fearless Group, First Grade Fearless Group, or Second Grade Fearless Teacher Group.

Or, you can also sign up for our free Teaching Tiny Humans Teacher Course, where you will get weekly emails and guidance on how to navigate challenging situations, along with tips, tricks, activity ideas, and freebies to make this school year a success and constantly be honing your skills even if you are not in the classroom.

In addition, you can follow us on Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook @educationtothecore for continued information and resources as the school year progresses, or listen to our podcast Where the Primary Things Are.

Written by – Korryna Sanchez  

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