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Resources for Inexpensive Children's Books

On The Core Knowledge Blog, Robert Pondiscio cited a newspaper column bemoaning the disappearance of the Little Golden Books and other inexpensive children's fare; that columnist noted that the books are available in some places, mostly online. While I don't agree with the premise—I have seen The Poky Little Puppy, etc.,  in Walmart, for one—the blog did get me to thinking about affordable books for little ones.

The public library, of course, is the biggest bargain; library cards are free.

Here is a version of what I wrote in the comments at Core Knowledge:

Goodwill and other thrift stores are excellent places to buy inexpensive books for children, as are library sales. Tag sales and garage sales are other good places to look, not to mention online resources like Freecycle lists and Paperback Swap. Almost all libraries offer free Internet access, so one does not have to own a computer to have accounts or join email lists.

My local Goodwill sells children’s paperbacks for something like 50 cents. The various Scholastic clubs also offer at least some inexpensive books in almost every catalogue. (A tip: just avoid the books that come with the cheap tchotchkes. Breakage=heartbreak.)

Any other ideas? I hope you'll add them in the comments. I'd be happy to make the suggestions into a flyer.


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I do pick up a lot of children's books at our local thrift store. Most of the titles are ones that I don't see in the normal stores and some are gems! I get excited when I see a book that I grew up with. Sometimes they are trashed. When they are in good condition, I always make sure I wipe them down first before my kids get their hands on them.

The local libraries in my area all have annual book sales. It's a win-win-win situation. People in town donate old books. The library sells them, most for under a buck, and keeps the profits. All unsold books are donated to charity. It's a great place for teachers to beef up classroom libraries. At my own library's sale this year, I counted seven Harry Potters and picked up a handful of Magic Treehouses for 50 cents apiece.

How about a book swap? Moms can do this on playdates or kids in the neighborhood could do it. It might have to start as a scheduled event, where everyone brings a couple books and picks up something new, but as everyone learns each other's tastes, it is bound to turn into "oh, you have to read this. I'll give it to you when I'm done."

I have to agree that thrift stores are the best place to shop for children's books...especially if you go on a regular basis. I go every 6 weeks or so and come home with armloads each time.

We don't have a Walmart nearby, and if we did it wouldn't be my first choice for shopping! That aside, I do miss the fact that there used to be more titles, with a greater variety, and fewer licensed product movie/TV offshoots. And those that existed, from the Disney movies, seemed to be better quality.

We are big fans of garage sales, the local Goodwill (where I always seem to leave with more than I bring in!), and the twice-annual library sales. We also have swaps and giveaways at the monthly home school support group meetings. Getting rid of old books is the best way to make room for new books! Another favorite, though pricier (but then the books *are* new), is

By the way, I was tickled to see Kitty Burns Florey's recent post at the CL blog...

Also, we get free books through our local library's Reading is Fundamental program.

I think we've gotten books from just about all of these avenues, Susan -- that would explain the sagging shelves. But The Core Knowledge Blog is new to me -- thanks for providing an introduction!

If you have a Goodwill Outlet (not a regular Goodwill store, but the last-chance warehouse) you can often find oodles of kids' books very inexpensively. The one near us charges a quarter for paperbacks, fifty cents for hardbacks.

Viz library booksales-- Book Sale Finder is a web site that tells you about all the booksales in whatever radius you ask it to. Most sales have bag days, where it is easy to fill a bag with tons of children's books for $2 a bag...

Great ideas, everyone! Thank you.

Chris, I like the Core Knowledge Blog. I don't always agree with them, but I'm very interested in what they have to say.

I am a teacher in NYC. I use a site called The selection is great and the prices are the best on the web. They have books for under a dollar all year round. They also have a bonus point structure.

I use, an excellent book swap site. You will need to pay postage to send out books to get points to "mooch" more, but many people have 2 for 1 deals, especially on children's paperbacks. I get books not only for my personal library but for the library I work at - mostly out of print paperbacks kids want.

The Scholastic book clubs flyers from the schools and child care centers include many cheap paperback options and $1 books. It is a good way to get some newer titles into your home library. I've also had really good luck at garage sales.

Thanks, Dana. I'll have to check that out.

Jennifer, that sounds like a great resource. Kinda like Paperback Swap.

Janelle, those $1 Scholastic books are great! So are garage sales often.

Thanks for stopping by and sharing ideas, everyone!


You are more than welcome. I think you will love it! I have turned all my colleagues on to Teacherwide.. Like I said above, great selection and price :)

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