Books make a classroom—use these classroom library ideas to build yours without breaking the bank.

Everyone loves a blank slate and a new adventure. Perhaps you are fresh out of undergrad with your shiny new teaching degree, or just accepted a new position in a different school or grade level. Let’s face it, time is ticking by and there’s a lot of work ahead to get your classroom ready for your students. Stocking your classroom library is likely at the top of your list, and we have a few classroom library ideas that can help you build yours on a budget.

Create a Wish List

Consider starting an Amazon Wish List to share with your network of supporters. Wedding and baby registries have been around for decades, offering friends and families the opportunity to shower their loved ones with all the necessities for success in a new season of life. Think of the Wish List as a registry of sorts. Just create a list of titles that will captivate and engage your students, share it with your people, then sit back, relax, and wait for the packages to arrive. It’s low-effort, high reward for you…and your friends and family will feel great about making a tangible contribution to your new endeavor.

Visit a Local Thrift Store

They say that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, but it’s 2019 and everyone knows that recycling is way cooler than throwing away. As you stock your classroom library, second-hand thrift stores can be a great place to score new (to you) inventory. What do we love most about this option? It’s CHEAP! Many thrift stores offer books for as low as $0.25 a pop. Rummage and yard sales are also great places to find lightly used books in a variety of genres and reading levels.

Host a Book Drive

One way to bond with your new teacher friends and simultaneously build your classroom library is to join forces and plan a community-wide book drive. Fall Open House or Parent-Teacher conferences would be a great time to promote the event and don’t forget to share the details on social media. There’s a good chance community members have books lying around that they have outgrown, and they’d probably rather send them your way than leave them on bookshelves (or in boxes!) to collect dust. After the book drive, you can split up the donations by grade and topic so that everyone walks away with a little something.

Apply for Grants

Remember all those writing-intensive courses you took as an undergraduate? Get ready to put them to use! There are countless grants available at the national, state, and local level to assist you in developing a collection of books for your classroom. All you have to do is ask! Grant writing might seem daunting, but a little effort can go a long way. Some organizations we recommend checking out include The Walmart Foundation,, The Meemic Foundation, and The Dollar General Literacy Foundation.

See, building a classroom library doesn’t have to break the bank. These classroom library ideas should help you get a solid start. Remember, if you put in a little work now to create a robust library, your students (and pocketbook) will reap the benefits all year.

—Written by Emily Vlietstra, former Marketing Strategist in the Office of Strategy & University Affairs 

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