Creating a Library for Practically Nuffin’


One of the most exciting things for me (because I’m a huge book nerd) was creating a differentiated library system in my class that kids could use! This could also be used at home with your own kids, with modifications. By now you should know how stingy I am, so don’t expect to spend a lot with these helpful tips.



Before spending a CENT on books (that honestly are going to get torn up in a year by natural usage) ask people! Post on your facebook, twitter, nextdoor, etc, that you’re a teacher and need books. People feel sorry for teachers, they’ll give you everything they have if they could. Or if you’re a parent, just say I’m in need of children’s books. When I was a first year teacher I posted that EVERYWHERE and I got at least 30 FREE books just from that.

Another group to listen to is retiring teachers, when teachers leave they don’t want to keep anything! Ask retiring teachers, teachers who are becoming principals or counselors what they are doing with their books or collections. Chances are they didn’t even think about it and will give those books away! I got a bunch of hand-me downs this way.


2. Half Priced Books Warehouse

Look in your area for the nearest Half Priced Books Warehouse. On Saturday’s they will open their warehouse (as the rooster crows) and give you two boxes that you can fill with all the books your heart desires! I got like 200 books from this! The boxes are BIG. THESE ARE TOTALLY FREE! Now make sure to monitor what you get… I once got a book with naked pictures in it. Phew, good thing I checked!


3. Your school’s Librarian

As I’m working on my internship to becoming a Librarian I see how important this person is! Like seriously they have to know EVERYTHING and be nice all at the same time, it’s exhausting. So, one thing to know is that the library is constantly updating and getting new books or content or getting rid of “ugly” books. Talking to your Librarian to see if they are deleting or getting rid of any books is a great way to start. They might not be the prettiest things, but that means that kids love them and have checked them out!


4. Library Summer Sales

Public libraries have to do the same thing, update their content, filter the old books or ugly books, etc. When they do this, the “friends of the library” or whatever group organizes this will sell the books they are getting rid of to try to make more money for library activities. The books are so cheap, like 50 cents, or 25 cents cheap! I even bought some books just for me to read.

Half Price Books - Lincoln Square

5. Half Price Books

Half Price Books gives 10% off for teachers (if you show your badge), I would go into the clearance children’s book section and find all the 50 cent books! I would get a bunch of those that’s books for only 45 cents a piece! GENIUS.


6. Thrift Stores, Goodwill, DAV, Salvation Army ETC

I found a ton of leveled readers at a thrift store once, I have no clue why they were there. (Must have been an out of print collection) The whole collection, about 80 small books which is 20 different levels, was only $2. YUP only $2!


7. Scholastic Reading Club

These are those little magazine like things we got when we were little. With the books all over it and you would circle the ones you wanted? Yeah those still exist and it’s awesome for teachers! They will have sales where the books are like $1 a piece or a set of books for $30, but you get like 40 books or something. Also, when your students order, your classroom gets points that you can use on MORE books for your library!


8. Online Resources

If you don’t have a ton of books, but still want your kiddos reading, there are a ton of websites that have free ebooks!
We Give Books (you have to have a log in, but it’s totally free)
Storyline Online (which are videos of famous actors reading to your child)
Project Gutenburg (which downloads free books to your computer)
International Children’s Library (free fun books)

And way more, there’s also a ton of apps available!
Apple’s iBook has a bunch of free books loaded.
HMH houghton mifflin has all their leveled readers on an app.
Starfall, duh!


9. How to make it a Differentiation

If you’re looking for books for you home, look away! I used old shoe boxes (which I covered in cute paper of course) and put a number on each box. 1 was for my lowest group (non readers- DRA2/3) and it went all the way to 8 (DRA 28+). Each group was differentiated by DRA level (Fountas and Pinnell can be done as well). I found the levels by using a few leveling apps, Scholastic has a very good one. I told each reading group what their number was and that they could only get their book from that number. I coordinated the numbers with colors and put the corresponding sticker color on the book. It was so easy for organizing and it looks great on observations. 😉

There are WAY more opportunities and humble yourself, set aside your pride and talk to your fellow coworkers, friends, etc. Make sure you are open to help and receptive!



*All pictures found on labeled for reuse.


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