Ask and You Shall Receive

Dec 17, 2010 by

In order to teach reading using a workshop approach, you simply MUST have a classroom library.  Richard Allington recommends at least 500 books, but I think we need even more than that.  If you do not have a well-stocked library, where do you begin acquiring books?  Here are a few suggestions for getting books into your classroom for little or no money:

  • Friends of the Library Used Book Sales: Friends of the Library love to give teachers materials for free or at greatly reduced prices.
  • Garage sales: Ask if the seller will consider donating unwanted books to your classroom or giving you a discount.
  • Bonus Points from Book Orders: As children read more, they purchase more books, contributing more bonus points which can be used to buy more books!
  • Ask parents to donate unwanted books. See below for a sample letter.
  • Write a grant: Many school districts and community organizations offer grant money for special projects. Take advantage of these opportunities. Check out Donors Choose www.donorschoose.org for grant opportunities.
  • Bookstores: Some bookstores will donate damaged books to teachers. Books without covers provide students with a perfect opportunity to show their comprehension of a story by designing their own book covers. Also ask for old book displays and other promotional material.
  • Post Offices: Ask your local post office if they will give you any unclaimed magazines.
  • Thrift Stores/Salvation Army/Goodwill: These stores will often give teachers materials for free or at greatly reduced prices.
  • Local Businesses: Many businesses will donate materials they do not need. Eg: Ask a carpet store for leftover carpet or samples to put into your classroom library.
  • Service Organizations (Rotary, Optimists, Lions, American Legion): Some are willing to provide money to purchase books.
  • Craig’s List and Ebay:  Especially watch for retiring teacher collections.
  • Nonprofit Organizations: A variety of national nonprofit organizations specialize in providing books to teachers and students in need.

Danny Brassell, author of Readers for Life says there are just 2 rules for acquiring books: 

1) Ask for donations. 
2) Send a class thank you note.

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The class thank you note goes a long way.  Often those who have donated will continue to donate to your cause in the future when they run across more books.

This year I have adopted a 4th grade class to pilot Lucy Calkins’ new Units of Study for Teaching Reading

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The teacher I am co-teaching with has a decent classroom library, but in my opinion, you can never have enough books!  So we decided to solicit her students’ parents for help in acquiring more books.  We sent home a book donation request to parents (download below).

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Shortly after sending home the letter, she received the most unexpected response  from one parent in the form of this e-mail: 

“Please provide me a list of books that you would love to have.  I have a certain amount of money that I try to donate each year to charities, and those charities which benefit a family member are best.  Education is definitely important to me so your cause is a worthy one that not only benefits my children, but the potential for 100’s of children. Don’t be shy putting the list together.  If you don’t ask, you will never receive.”

Incredible!  I guess Danny Brassell was right—we need to ask.  Of course, most of us will never receive such a generous offer, but if we don’t ask, we won’t receive any at all.

Do you have any creative ways of acquiring books for your classroom?  I invite you to share them here.

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