How To Get Free Books With Little Effort

How To Get Free Books With Little Effort by A Word On Third

Do you have a small classroom library? If you're a young teacher or you teach in a district that doesn't throw lots of money at you, it's very likely that you have a sparse library. As someone who has taught 3 grades in 5 years, I totally relate to having too few leveled books!! In fact, this became such a frustrating problem for me that I tried every trick in the book. I went to the library all of the time (it sucks paying over-due fees and losing books, by the way), printed out books online... you name it, I tried it.

I wanted to get good leveled books into my students' hands, and it was really hard to do. Would I have to spend every Saturday going to yard sales? Would I have to scour book stores and look for sales?

No. The answer is no. This is my favorite way to get books because 1. the books are free, and 2. it's super easy. All I have to do is sit at my computer for 3 minutes. That's it. Maybe it's a trick that you already know, but keep reading, because I still have a few tricks up my sleeve.

This trick provides me a minimum of 100 free books each year. A MINIMUM! I spend about an hour throughout school year doing this, and most of it is shopping for books.

Let me introduce Scholastic Reading Club. Maybe some of used this as a kid in an elementary classroom! Here's how it works for teachers. Each of your students can buy books and have them delivered straight to your classroom. Every time a student buys books, you earn points. Then, you spend points on books. I get books for free with my points, and I have them delivered for free every time I have an online parent order. It's that easy. No tricks. No surprises. No catch. Maybe you're familiar with it, and you're having trouble getting parents to buy in? No problem. Skip down to later in this post, and I'll teach you those tricks I have up my sleeve that I mentioned!

First, click on that link to Scholastic Reading Club. Go click it. Then sign up for a teacher account if you don't have one. You'll look for a part on the page that looks like this:

Once you're done, you can go to your "Teacher's Desk" and set up all sorts of preferences in your account. I like to send home a letter in the beginning of the year (there's several set up for you... you don't have to write them) and work on my wish list and recommendation list. That's really all you have to do to make the most of this. And truthfully, you really don't NEED a wish list or recommendation list!

The parent letter teaches parents what Scholastic is, how to order books from your class (so you get those book points), and sets everything up for you so you don't have to explain it.

Wish lists are great because parents can use them to donate to your classroom. I tell my students I prefer books than chocolate at holiday time. I tell them that this is something they can donate that will make us all happy. I discuss it at Back To School Night too.

The recommendation list is also great because it can help students or parents to make informed book choices. I tell parents these are great gifts for kids at holiday time too, and I usually put all the hottest books on my list. Great nonfiction books from National Geographic, the fiction series the kids love... it's on my list. If it's developmentally appropriate and a quality text, I just pop it on. You can probably develop a pretty impressive list in 5 to 10 minutes.

OK, so you skipped the part about how to sign up and want the juicy stuff!! Start reading here:

Here are my quick and dirty tips for getting parents and students to buy in!

  1. Talk up Scholastic Reading Club at Back To School Night. Include it in your presentation and give parents a paper letter with directions so they can go home and sign up. Tell parents that books make great holiday/birthday gifts for the kids. These are the same books you'd buy at Barnes and Noble... the difference is the books are delivered home to each child without a trip out, and the profits go towards supplying the classroom books.
    If you teach in a lower-income area, you might want to point out that plenty of books are less than $5.00. You can even get family members with kids to sign up under your class account. I also offer previous students to use my account if their current teacher doesn't have one.
  2. Show the kids some of your favorite books that you got from Scholastic. Every once in a while, right before a read aloud, you might say, "OH WOW! I got this book from Scholastic. I am so glad I got it. There are a lot more like it online if you're interested." Don't say this if you don't like the book. That's not going to sound genuine. Plus, you're recommending a book you don't like. WHY DID YOU READ THAT FOR READ ALOUD TIME?! ;)
  3. Have kids book "shop" during morning arrival. I really don't like meaningless morning work. I'm just going to go right out and say it... I think a list of sentences to edit, math problems to solve, and word puzzles to figure out are busy work. They aren't the best use of your students' time. I prefer to assign meaningful work that extends into what we're doing in class. It might be extra reader's workshop time, time to sort words or do a word study game... but it's meaningful. Well, once or twice a month, I give kids a Scholastic book catalogue to peruse while they wait for classmates to get in and unpack. This is actually meaningful because it gets them interested in books and can help them with previewing skills a little bit. Here's the big thing you have to do: HAVE KIDS CIRCLE SOME BOOKS THEY ARE INTERESTED IN PURCHASING! Then talk about it as a class later. Which leads me to...
  4. Talk about books at Morning Meeting. If you're always struggling to squish 8 things into 20 minutes like 99% of all teachers, this is a good "cut two carrots with one knife" kind of deal. During the "share" section of your Morning Meeting, have kids share a book they want and why they are interested in it. Afterwards, you can even have kids vote on a few and you can buy them for the class with the free points. Follow through with this! Write the popular ones down. Even if you only get one or two, that's OK.
  5. Make a big deal out of each book arrival. On the day the box comes, tell the kids about it. Have a big "unboxing" ceremony. AKA... when you have 2 minutes between classes or before lunch or at the end of the, open the box and get excited. Tell kids you can't wait to give them their orders, but only make a big deal out of the class books you ordered. This includes book selections you made with and without your students' input. You don't want students to feel bad if they don't have books. Even if they don't feel bad, it's kind of boring to hear about something that doesn't apply to you.
  6. Give mini book talks when you think of it. "This book, The X and the Y, is so awesome because blah blah blah. I really like it because I like the author and I like how he/she blah blah blahed. You can order if on Scholastic if it sounds like something you'd like.
  7. Send emails to parents periodically reminding them of new due dates. Make a point of saying that winter holidays are big for books. Order in advance so books arrive in time. You might even want to set up a system for books to be picked up secretly by parents so kids won't know what their holiday gifts are. That's a big hit in my classroom each year!
That's literally all I do. It's so easy! Scholastic will send you the catalogues you want for your classroom and labels with your class activation code to put onto the catalogues for any parent who forgets it/hasn't signed up. I like to have my kids do this as a class job. My "messenger" who puts stuff in mailboxes can do this start to finish. 

Then I go shop with my billions of book points. (Ok, not billions at all, but it feels like it!)

Do you use Scholastic Reading Club? If so, what are your tricks for getting parents and students to buy in and get books? Comment below!

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