Teaching is expensive. Even in the most supportive, well-funded schools, teachers fund classrooms. The most expensive (yet the most essential) of classroom supplies? Books. The hitch? Research repeatedly says that access to books and the number of books students have access to directly correlates with interest in reading, reading ability, and literacy rates. Additionally, as teachers we know students need access to TONS of different books and that when students walk into a full-stocked classroom library, they know reading is important. This message “My teacher thinks reading is important. Reading must be important.” becomes internalized from early on in the school year, setting the stage for our time together.
Half-Price Books is committed to providing books to classrooms and nonprofit organizations for FREE! From Summer Book Bags to stocking your classroom library, check out how to keep your students surrounded by high-quality, high-interest books year-round!
Who Can Request Books?
Classrooms with a literacy focus and 501(c)3 non-profit organizations
Steps for Acquiring Free Books
- Call your local Half Price Book Store to confirm they participate.
- Stop in, chat with the fellow book-lovers at the store, and ask for a Book Donation Request Form.
- Fill out the half-page form (see below). It asks for your name, organization name, tax ID number, address, your phone number and email, and how the books will be used. The form takes ~3 minutes to fill out.
- Turn in your form. The employee will ask what age range your students are (Elementary – picture books, or Middle – chapter books) and how many boxes you need (1, 2, or 3…sometimes they say 1 or 2)
- Jump up and down. Say “Thank you” an obnoxious number of times.
- Wheel the FREE books to your car.
- Write a thank-you note to the store. (Although definitely not required, it is kind. Plus, FREE books. To make the note extra special, have your tiny humans sign their first names in their adorable, tiny-human handwriting. That handwriting steals the hearts of people every.single.time.)
Can I Request Books Online?
Supposedly, yes. There is an online form here…BUT that is all I know. It’s super speedy to do in person and you get the books immediately. The online form says it can take up to 60 days. So, yes you can request books online, but going in-person seems to be the most friendly and efficient route.
How Do I Get Our School’s Tax ID Number
Half Price Books uses this number to confirm that your school/organization is actually a nonprofit and allows them to count the donation as a tax deduction. You MUST have this number each time you request books. Your school secretary or bookkeeper should have your school’s Federal Tax ID Number. Note – this is a private number and really should not be posted anywhere, shared, or used in any way outside of acquiring free boxes of books.
Should I Ask My School’s Permission?
Potentially, probably yes. But with that said here are the words I live by, “It is better to ask for forgiveness than permission.” Also, free books.
What Types of Books Are In the Boxes? Are They Quality Books?
Super valid question. The books are typically clearance books that did not sell or books that have been on the shelves for a long time. Approximately 20% of the books in most of my boxes are not necessarily ones I would use to stock my classroom library. These books might be super dated (i.e. 1975 is the earliest I have found) or just aren’t a good fit (i.e. Using Felt Boards in the Elementary Classroom). In my last box (May), I counted just because I knew you would ask. In one box of “Elementary” books there were 98 books (WHAT?!?!?!). Before showing them to students I sorted out 21 books that were not just-right fits for us. This percentage definitely changes. Sometimes it is a lot more and sometimes a lot less. I would consider our “May Box” (shown in this post) a pretty average box and it was still packed with great books. There were FOUR Patricia Polacco books (my K/1 friends were PUMPED) and lots of awesome nonfiction books. Each of my students were able to add 3 books to their “Summer Reading” bags!
What Do You Do With Books that Aren’t a Good Fit?
Great question! Here are a couple of different options –
- Send out an all-call to your teacher friends. Something you might not use, might work perfectly for them!
- Disassemble (i.e. cut apart) the books and use them for Word Work (searching for specific skills), sorting fiction/nonfiction, or other grammar/phonics skills.
- Cut out the pictures (see below) and use them in Work on Writing. Placing 4-5 pictures from the same story in a bag allows students to sequence the events in a story and then, write about that sequence. You could also put several different illustrations in a basket, allow students to pull a picture and write a story to match!
- Place these books on your teacher table and offer them as a raffle. Students LOVE winning and research repeatedly shows that the number of books in a household influences literacy rates more than the education level of parents. (Say what?!?!)
- On rare occasion, I have been known to retire (i.e. throw out) a book. Typically this is a last resort and only happens when a book is not politically correct, offensive, or extremely dated.
How Can I Use the Books?
The books donated by Half Price Books need to directly benefit students in your classroom/school and their families. They cannot be resold in any form or fashion. Fair enough, right? Here are some ways I’ve used these books and other ways teachers have used the books:
- Filling Take-Home Book Bags
- Supplying books over longer breaks (Fall, Winter, Spring, and Summer)
- Book Tastings (perfect for introducing new genres or types of books to students)
- Stocking Read-to-Self Book Bins
- Refreshing your classroom library
- Books for Family Literacy Nights
- Filling a Library Display Shelf
How Often Can I Request Books?
So, I haven’t received official word on this, but my local Half-Price Books recommends teachers come in monthly to request books. When I request books, I can request 1, 2, or 3 boxes of Elementary (picture books) or Middle (chapter books). Based on how I’m using the books, I typically request 1 or 2 boxes! While I don’t get two boxes of books every month, I typically end up with 6-7 boxes a year!
So friends, what are you waiting for? Take a chance and snag some amazing books for your students!
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