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How to Build Up Your Classroom Library Without Breaking the Bank

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Show Notes:

What are the best books to get for my classroom? How do I start a classroom library from scratch without spending all of my money?!

These are questions that I get asked all the time in my work with beginning elementary teachers…and for good reason! I mean, holy cow, looking at a bunch of empty bookshelves is intimidating, and probably causing you to see dollar signs. πŸ’Έ 😳

I talked about this topic back in episode 16: 16 Cheap, Free, & Creative Ways to Get Books for Your Classroom Library but considering we’re now on episode 191, I thought it was probably time for a fresh take! So today, we're going to talk all about how you can build up your classroom library without breaking the bank. 

When I first started teaching, I made some mistakes when it came to setting up my classroom library. I was desperate to get books. So I just collected any books that I could get my hands on. I didn’t care what they were, I just wanted to fill those shelves! #givemeallthebooks. 

As always, I want you to learn from my mistakes and encourage you to think about quality over quantity. Lots of books is just not nearly as important as having books that your students are really going to want to read.

If you aren't sure what kinds of books to collect for your class library, there’s several of things you can do. You can start by asking other teachers at your grade level which authors, titles, and series are most popular with the age group that you’ll be teaching. You can also ask these same questions inside Facebook groups for your specific grade level.

Another great way to narrow down which books to focus on is to do a quick Google search. For example, you could search for best books for third grade or must read books for third grade. That can give you a pretty good idea of titles and authors and series you want to get started with.

Here’s an additional pro tip for you! Remember, no matter what grade you're teaching, you’re going to want books below and above that grade level. You’re going to have students at all different abilities inside your classroom. You will have students who are below grade level and you’ll have advanced readers as well. That's why when I create wish lists, I usually like to link to book lists for kindergarten to fifth grade because you will need a range.  

Now, once you've made up a fantastic list of books that you'd really like for your classroom, how do you actually get them without breaking the bank?! I’m giving you 16 different ideas in this episode, from creating wish lists, to writing to publishers, to starting a Donors Choose account, to enlisting help from your principal and/or librarian. Be sure to scroll down to the links below to access the resources I mention in this episode.

After listening, you’ll have more ideas than you know what to do with so that you can begin to build your classroom library today! It is crazy to me that classrooms don't already come equipped with books that are engaging and full of high quality literature for students. But if you start early, you'll be able to build an incredible library and have some amazing books for your kiddos.

Inside this week's show, you'll learn:

  • Ways that you can get free or inexpensive books for your classroom library.
  • The importance of building up your library with books that your students will actually be interested in reading.
  • Key people to share your Amazon wish lists with to help you build up your library quickly.
  • Why there are many benefits to sending book recommendation lists home to families
  • A reminder to make friends with your school librarian from the beginning!
  • A creative way to host a class fundraiser to raise money for engaging classroom books

Links & resources mentioned inside this episode:

I hope this information is helpful as you prepare for your first, second, or third year of teaching. Until next time, remember, just because you're a beginning elementary teacher, there's no need for you to struggle like one.

πŸ’› Lori

Dr. Lori Friesen | Beginning Teacher Mentor

Creator of the R.E.A.D.Y. for School Academy, Dr. Lori Friesen has mentored thousands of beginning teachers across the country through her workshops and courses. Host of the popular podcast, Beginning Teacher Talk, and creator of the innovative literacy program for 1st and 2nd grade, Dogs Help Kids Read and Succeed, Dr. Lori is dedicated to serving educators and inspiring learners. Learn more at and at

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