Finding the right book for a great price is one of my favorite adventures. Here are my tips on picking the right book for you:
How do I know if I should get this book?
First, how will you use this book? Who will your audience be?
Some books are great for classroom lessons, but some are better for small groups. For example, in class I need a book that would be engaging for all students and appropriate for a variety of levels. However, in small groups I can pick books that are more specific to that population. Also, for my ELL students or students on the spectrum I might need a book that’s more straight forward and has a limited number of idioms or figurative language. So when I am reading the book I am always thinking who will I be reading this to?
Next, think about the specific class you are reading to.
Just because a book is great for a grade level doesn’t mean it’s great for a class. All classes have their own unique personalities. I have some 5th graders that love Todd Parr and some that would boo when I pulled him out. So know your class and their maturity level. Worst case they do boo and then you know for the future. Also, have your students give you feedback. I am always asking my students to tell me what their favorite books where. I am also not afraid to ask them if we should read it again or if it would be better for a different grade level.
Ask yourself what is your purpose? Are you able to accomplish your goal by reading this book?
Then look at your standards. So if I know I want to have students in 1st learn how to take turns then I might pick and Elephant and Piggie book. Looking at my standards I know that I could have them do a readers theatre which is age appropriate and allows them to demonstrate they have mastered by goal.
Check out the ending!
I’ve picked up some amazing books that I thought would rock only to get to the end. For example, a lot of adorable picture books that involve bullying or friendship have “miracle endings” where everything is magically better or believe the problem is solved when one character gets eaten. So if my purpose is teaching my students how to apologize or solve a conflict with a friend I need to see that happen in the book. It’s like how you never see anyone on sitcoms go clean toilets- you want it be realistic. That being said sometimes I love using books as just a fun introduction to a lesson. I use lots of silly, fun books to grab their attention. I’ve even asked my students to write their own ending for some books.
Look at the length!
For me, the best picture books are ones that are quick and short because I only see students for a short time. Too many words and they get bored. Practice reading it and time yourself. Think about the attention span of your students and also the length of your lesson. I’ve picked up really awesome books before, but they were too wordy. A great picture book is focused and fun.
Where do you purchase your books?
- Your local second hand store. Goodwill and Mckays are my two favorite. We also have a store, KARM, that let’s you get 5 books for $5
- Dolly Parton Imagination Library– if you have kids, you gotta sign up.
- Get on the catalog list to find books with a specific topic or theme. I suggest Free Spirit Publishing, Boys Town Press, NCYI, Marco, and Usborne.
- Visit the kids section at your local bookstore. Venture out of the self help and psychology section and just hit up the kids section.
- Scholastic. Scholastic Book Clubs allows me to not only grab books for my room, but for teacher and student giveaways. The Scholastic Warehouse Sale is amazing for finding a book you’ve wanted at a great price.
How do you purchase the book with little or no money?
How do you use Scholastic Book Clubs?
Using Scholastic Book Clubs in 10 easy steps
1. Ask your teachers, including ELL, to let you run their book club. Each year I have at least ten teachers willing to do this. Why do teachers let me do it? It allows me to provide books school wide (giveaways, they can borrow, put in a little free library, etc.) and they don’t have to do anything. Their students benefit greatly and they it’s one less thing they have to do.
2. Next, create an account and list all the different grades who you serve. You can also send parents digital flyers and they can do everything online.
4. Make virtual recommendations and book lists directly on the Scholastic site.
5. Get the flyers ready. It’s simple- you just pull them out and I staple a letter with my class code and ordering details to it. It’s the perfect job to do while watching Monday night TV. Scholastic even creates the letter for you. I simply copy and paste and make 3-4 a page to save paper.
6. Put flyers in teachers boxes.
7. Wait for the orders to come in. Most parents order online. Some return checks to me and I enter the order myself.
8. Get the benefits! August and September are big months. You can earn triple the bonus points, which means more free books. So, I really push the orders early on. I give books away as part of our character education awards, to teachers as an extension of class lessons, to classes as school wide incentives, to individual and small group members that achieve their goals, etc.
9. Deliver the books. When all the books arrive organize and deliver them. I’ve become known as the book lady. As I deliver books I do check in’s with kids so it’s a win win. Insider tip: when you submit an order print it out. When books arrive check them off. Books don’t arrive all together, so you may get parts of orders. This helps you track what still needs to arrive.