31 Days, Children's Books

Surrounding Children With Books On A Budget

I’ve spent sixteen days now telling you about what I consider to be marvelous picture books for children. Today, I was hit with remorse for not stating earlier in this 31 Days of Picture Book Series that I am by no means encouraging anyone to spend a fortune on creating a masterful library for your little ones. And if there is an area I am tempted to spend frivolously, it’s books for children. I would never, ever advocate spending frivolously on anything (except for maybe good charities). But that’s the great thing about books — you can incorporate wonderful books into your life and the lives of children without spending a fortune. Here’s how we spend next to nothing and still live surrounded by books in our home.

1. Ask your parents for the books they kept from your childhood. My husband and I are the oldest children in our book-lovin’ families. We didn’t even have to ask for the books that had our names in it–they started coming back to us way before we had children. However, I think a lot of parents keep their kids’ favorite books, but may not think of pulling them out of the attic to pass on. Even if you don’t already have children, ask your parents if they’ve kept any of the books you love when you were a kid.

2. Hit up used book sales. Your local library sales are the best place for this. We’ve found great hardback classics and board books like The Little Engine That Could and The Big Red Barn and never pay more than $3. Almost all our books are from library sales or free tables.

3. Speaking of the library…(brace yourself for a soapbox)… I shouldn’t even have to mention the library, but I’m always surprised at how many people I talk to who love reading yet never set foot in their local libraries. If you like books at all, you must get a library card and go to the library. Just do it. A library is not poor man’s Barnes and Noble — it is a goldmine. It offers wealth without requiring your wealth. It offers access to tons of books without requiring your shelf space. It does not tempt you with salted caramel mochas. I don’t know what else I can say to convince you, but if you’re afraid of the library or afraid of taking your kids to the library, read this post. If you’re still unsure, at least go in once and get a card and password so you can use the online resources for your e-reader. Please. I’m begging you, and I don’t even know why. Let’s just say I’m begging you for your own sake.

4. Let loved ones know books are your favorite gifts. I have an awesome great aunt who has always given me the best books. Let those people who give you books know you really appreciate them, and let others who ask what you like know, “hey, I love this kind of book!” Sure, sometimes you’ll get a book you don’t actually enjoy, but that’s gift giving. And from me to you, I don’t mind if anyone who ever gets a book from me takes it right to 2nd&Charles or e-bay to trade it in for something they want. Be my guest. And I may be yours, whether you invite me to do so or not. ; )

5. Amazon filler items. You know those times when you order something on Amazon but you don’t quite hit the $25 threshold for free shipping? Yes, you guessed it…add a book you’ve been wanting! It’s like a free book, or free shipping. You’re getting something for free, so why not? (Yes, this is a bit of book-lover rationalization, but I still think it’s one of the best ideas I’ve ever had). When my husband orders something and needs a few more dollars to get free shipping, he often asks me if I have a book on my to-buy list. Reason 4,287 I married that guy.

6. Be selective and buy the ones you really love. It’s easy to think you need to maintain a book collection that experts would approve of. I’ve grown to dislike common perceptions such as you’re pretty much under a rock if you have kids under 5 and don’t own Eric Carle books. That Very Hungry Caterpillar…is it just me, or is there something symbolic about him? Just kidding, he lives in our house and he’s cute. Or he was 600 readings ago. But you get what I mean. There are those books that are considered by Parenting Magazine or whatever “expert” to be the best of the best. Definitely check those out at the store or library, but check a bunch of other ones out, too, and then buy only the ones you simply can’t live without. Throw Eric Carle and Maurice Sendek to the wind if you want to.

7. When it comes to buying the books you really want, there’s nothing wrong with used. Unless, of course, there is something wrong with the used book. But as a concept and general rule, buying a used book is awesome. You save trees, you save money, you pass on a book that has been read by others. I think it’s great. I know people who want crisp new pages in all their books. I sometimes wonder how we’re still friends. No, I’m kidding, but I really do think used books are wonderful. 2nd & Charles has a great selection of classics and current best sellers, and shopping the little corner book dispensaries is always a quaint delight. E-bay is always an option, too.

I love having a small library in my own home. Yes, I am trying to keep it relatively small. It once was a lot larger. Even then, I didn’t shell out large amounts of cash for the books I bought. I know there are lots of other ways to build a library on a budget, such as book swap sites and hosting a book swap in your home. I haven’t tried those options, but I’d love to hear from you if you have.

This is Day 17 of 31 Days of Picture Books. Catch up on the other posts in the series here31days

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