When I was very pregnant with P, there was one late spring morning I was sitting in my car outside the Queen Anne library in Seattle, waiting for it to open. The rain was pouring down and I looked up from my phone to see sets of children in rubber boots and their caregivers scurrying to the front door to escape the rain. Soon, there were several children and several adults all waiting outside when the doors finally opened and I heard someone ask, ‘Who’s ready for story time?’
I am, I thought, excitedly. I mean, I couldn’t wait to be one of those mommies rushing up to the door with her little girl in her perfect rain coat for story time. I imagined being the first to arrive, making new friends, selecting our books afterwards (which we would return within just a couple days so we could grab new books – and avoid late fees!). My fantasy even included reading the same library books over and over with a librarian saying something similar to the book store owner in Beauty and the Beast, ‘but you’ve read it twice!’ And we’d all have a good laugh.
When she was about six months old I bought her a book for Christmas – it was one of two gifts we were able to afford. I spent just under $20 for one special book – Mama, Is it Summer Yet? by local paper-cut artist, Nikki McClure. It felt like a luxury being able to buy this one book for her. And I couldn’t help but think, how are average people able to afford so many books?
Flash forward to my rambunctious 3.5 year old. We don’t go to the library anymore. Never, ever. Ok, except when we’re at Crossroads Mall and P draaaaaaaaaaags me into the library (yes, how clever to put a library in a little mall). She RUNS excitedly to… the computers. Yup, the computers. She slips on the headphones and wants to play one of the crappiest preschool-aged games around – Color with Spot. And that’s ALL she wants to do.
‘Listen, P… do you hear other children,’ I lure her – she LOVES kids. Once her interest is piqued, ‘Ohhh sounds like they are singing,’ she LOVES to sing! ‘Why don’t we follow the sounds?’ It’s an ‘adventure,’ see??? So I walk her up the ramp to the HIDDEN children’s section. If I have convinced her to go up there, it’s a freakin’ miracle. But once she does, NOPE! She turn right back around and runs down the ramp and jumps on the computer again! (Lord, help us if another child has claimed her spot in those five seconds.)
Then I resign myself to this for a moment and think, ok ok maybe she doesn’t even know all these COOL books are up there – I’ll bring them to her. I select a few I’m sure she’ll appreciate – Busytown, anything space-related, a Superman first-reader? Whatever! ‘Look, P!’ I try to get her attention holding up the books. She won’t look. Then I annoyingly put them in front of her – blocking the computer screen. ‘HEY MOM! I WAS PLAYING A GAME!’ I plead, ‘don’t you want to find a special book to bring home?’ No response.
The next twenty minutes are spent wondering how long I should just let her play on the computer while trying to come up with a convincing argument for us to leave. Finally, ‘you know we have a computer at home, Sweetheart… you know, we could get a Spot book and go home… don’t you think the computer at home has much better games… Let’s go play the Cave! AT HOME! ON THE SOFA! WITH CHOCOLATE!’ (That was supposed to be the magical combination of words.) But no response.
Then I say, ‘Ok, how about just five more minutes? Want me to set the timer?’ ‘Sure, mom.’ So I set the timer and when it goes off, I pick her up and we say ‘good-bye’ to the library forever… Or until the next time I forget to use the opposite mall entrance.
The thing is, P LOVES to read! Er, she loves to have books read to her and she loves looking at books – she always has. So how do I have a child who is book lover when we never see a book at the library? Well, I give her LOTS AND LOTS OF BOOKS.
But, books are expensive. (REALLY expensive!) So what are some alternate ways to pump up your home library?
We frequent thrift stores like Goodwill, Value Village, (even the Goodwill Bins) and anywhere else we can find super cheap books. I look for deals like the ones at Value Village that offer ‘Buy 4, Get 1 FREE.’ We park ourselves in the book section and I say, ‘You can have any books you want!’ She happily selects a few (piles) and plants herself on the uncomfortable floors to flip through them. Then we decide which books we’ll actually take home.
With just a budget of $15 we can bring home – to keep – 20 books! (Heck, I’ve had library fines more expensive than that!)
What I usually do is give her some that day, but set aside some (that I’ve picked out) for special occasions, holidays, or even just a random ‘rainy day.’ We almost always find books that I know we won’t use in the near-future, but ones that might be helpful later on like science experiment and more complex anatomy, craft, and language books. Pretty much anything ‘homeschooly.’
Sometimes I find children’s books that are just very artful – books I enjoy looking at. Occasionally I find rare or hard-to-find books, books worth cash!
Discount Book Stores
Occasionally we will visit consignment shops for books, but we still cannot buy as many books as we’d like within our budget. However, we do find higher value books at a fraction of the cost of a major retailer at consignment sales. Check your local Just Between Friends consignment sale for the next one in your area or Craigslist for similar events.
There are always individual listings for larger collections of books on Craigslist. Sometimes daycares or Montessori schools will close down and offer their books at a great bargain through Craigslist.
Library, School, or Museum Book Sales
You’ve just got to check out BookSaleFinder.com - this awesome resource will hook you up with any large book sale in your area (within the US).
And, of course, I will buy a few books on Amazon if we have a specific book in mind.
What’s been great about this way of buying books is that P is free to choose (and OWN) books that she’s genuinely interested in. I’m sure if it was completely up to me buying books at full-retail value, I wouldn’t select the same reading material that draws her attention. In fact, I’m quite sure that I would purchase books that interest me or that I find value in.
I sure hope our experience and this list of alternative ways to find books has been helpful to you. What are some other ways we haven’t employed yet to get FREE or cheap books? What does your family do to keep everyone reading and interested?