Thursday, September 5, 2013

Creating a Library of Good Children's Books: #2 Find Them Frugally

Last week I shared with you how to establish criteria for building a library of good books for children. Once you've determined the kinds of books you want for your children, then you need to find them! 

First of all, I would recommend sitting down and making a list of specific books and authors you're looking for. Otherwise, when you're out looking, you will become overwhelmed by all the choices and may pick a few that don't meet your criteria at all.

Here are some great book lists that I've used for building our library:

But finding a good book list is just the starting point. Unless you have a photographic memory (I do not), then when you're out hunting for good children's books, you will inevitably forget the titles and authors on these lists. 

That's why I recommend 3 things:

(1) Print out your book list or jot down a few titles & keep them in your car or purse.

(2) Plug titles into the "Notes" section on your phone. 

(3) Make a Goodreads shelf specifically for books for your children. There's a Goodreads app for your phone, so you can access these books while out and about.

My Goodreads Shelf of Books-For-My-Girls

Now when you're out searching for "new" books you will have an idea of what you're looking for and not just pick up something that looks good.

#1: Make a book list!

#2: Find your books!

As a book hoarder, I love browsing at Barnes & Noble, but thoughts of paying full price for a book give me the shivers.

Here are a few of my favorite sources for finding good children's books for a steal:

Yard Sales
Unless I have a specific item I'm hunting for, I don't frequent yard sales very much right now. However, they are an excellent source for children's books. I am always amazed the books people get rid of and for ridiculously cheap prices. For instance, when my oldest was 1, I found the complete set of Little House on the Prairie books in perfect condition for $5 at a yard sale. 

Library Book Sales
This year I attended my first ever library book sale with our oldest daughter. All I can say is A-MAY-ZING! Our public library offered a paper sack full of books for $5, so for 5 bucks you could take home as many books as you could cram into the bag. You can't beat the price! 

One thing I learned though: Get there early! I saw a woman with a sack full of American Girl books. I hate I missed those! Next time I'll be there before the sale starts.

Used Bookstores 
People tend to hear "used books" and think moth balls and dust, but I'm here to tell you that used bookstores are a book lover's best friend. Just because something is "cheap" doesn't make it "lesser than." It just means a good deal and a little extra pocket change. So, don't bypass a used bookstore because of their reputation: usually the prices are great, the quality above-par, and the variety excellent.   

However, with SO many books in one location, you can easily get overwhelmed and completely forget who you are, why you're there, and what you're looking for. I call it "used bookstore amnesia." It's a real malady, people! That's why having a book list is essential.
Goodwill & Other Thrift/Consignment Stores
I've never been much of a thrift store shopper, but clothing children is expensive and thrift & consignment stores are my favorite shopping places. Did you know you can buy books there too? Yes, yes, you can, and for a fraction of the price of a brand new book.  

Next time you're out thrift store shopping, take your book list and scrounge around in the children's book section. You just might find  a few gems. I've bought numerous Five in a Row books at our Goodwill. 

Free & Cheap Books on Kindle 
I'm a diehard paperback girl. While I've read a few books on my iPhone and laptop, I prefer turning pages and highlighting key thoughts. However, since there are apps for reading on virtually any device imaginable, it only makes economic sense to be aware of the free books out there. 

At Amazon you can download FREE books, including classics like David Copperfield and Jane Eyre among others. Other e-options with a good selection of classics for children include Project Gutenberg &

Amazon using Swagbucks
I've been using Swagbucks for years now, and if you aren't familiar with Swagbucks but like new books as much as I do, then you need to sign up. It's free and easy. Every time you type a search into the Swagbucks search bar, you have an opportunity to earn bucks. Those bucks accumulate and you can cash them in for gift cards to Amazon (or other stores like Starbucks and Target). There are other ways to earn bucks, but I only use the search bar and earn between $20 and $40 worth of gift cards for Amazon a year. That means free money for FREE BOOKS! 

Other Options
My Facebook friends and fans also mentioned these places for finding good children's books:

Other than Dolly Parton's free books from birth -- We have this awesome program in TN, but I'm not sure if it's available to residents from other states, I haven't had any experience with the others. But those are options you might check in to as you start building your library of good children's books. 

What about you? Where do you find your favorite children's books? What advice would you give a novice book hunter looking for good books for a good price?

This post contains affiliate links. Thanks for supporting our family's library!

Other Posts in This Series:
Creating a Library of Good Children's Books: #1 Establish Your Criteria

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  1. What a great post! I'll definitely be checking out the character-building book list. :)

    Another great place to find ideas is Sonlight Curriculum. They have some wonderful books, and I can usually find them on Amazon or the B&N online marketplace for less.

  2. Unfortunately, we've been getting more and more books on the kindle. I prefer having the actual book,{nothing like holding it and feeling the pages} but space is limited in this tiny house. They way my daughter reads {a couple of books a month} we'd have no more room for anything else, let alone my stash of books! :) Good advice though. :)

  3. Wonderful ideas! I do shop at Thrift stores and Garage sales, these are great places to get used books.
    Stopping by from "Cozy book hop"!

  4. As well as the occasional book sale, a lot of libraries will keep a book shelf with used books near the front that can be purchased for a few quarters, older books, sometimes with slight damage such as crayon scribbles or the like, or books that were donated that didn't meet their standards. I generally come away with a few every time I visit and it is constantly updated as books are "withdrawn" or donated. Last week I got a copy of Charlotte's Web. It does have the name of some random child scrawled inside the cover, but that doesn't negate the content.

  5. I love books. This summer I discovered "The Little Free library". They are located all over the world. They are little "libraries" more like cute little cabinets in people's yards. You can leave a book or take a book, it's free. Check out their web site, to see if there is one in your area. I love this idea, of free books to share.

  6. Great tips! I enjoy our used bookstore but I like your suggestion of keeping a list of books.

  7. Scholastic will often have warehouse sales at their distribution centers where you can get great deals. (Even better than their usual book orders). As a homeschooler or teacher of any flavor you can also sign up to volunteer to help run the book sale and they will "pay" you with $10 worth of books as a gift certificate for each hour you work. So even if you only work for 3 hours you can get $30 of basically free books - which you can combine with the sale prices AND coupons to get upwards of $100+ worth of books for just 3 hours of your time. Definitely something worth looking into.

    Also - I LOVE Goodreads, I'm always recommending it to patrons who come into my library and want to keep better track of what they're reading. I love that it also gives you recommendations based on the books you've already read.

  8. These are really great tips! Thanks for sharing them at Booknificent Thursday!
    Tina from