May 29 2012

How I’m acquiring good children’s books for a good price

I was thinking about what encouraged my love of reading from such an early age, and now I think I know why:

My parents read to me, a lot.

And, I had access to really good children’s books. My much-older cousin outgrew his children’s books, and I received a ton of hand-me-downs.

Not all of those titles survived my childhood, but I have lasting memories of many.

At the time, I didn’t realize I had great books. I just thought all books were awesome.

Now, I know the truth. There are a lot of junky children’s books out there. Just like there are good children’s TV shows and bad ones, and healthy snacks and junky snacks, there are great children’s books and awful ones.

Kids deserve quality.

They don’t need to be talked-down to.  They don’t need a book to have a gimmick to keep their attention.

Shouldn’t be so hard. Many books exist solely to make the publisher money. Blech.

At first, when I heard the term “twaddle” from Charlotte Mason followers, I thought some people were being sorta snobbish.

“I wouldn’t let my child read such twaddle” sounds like someone saying, “I wouldn’t let my babykins eat a candybar,” or the sort.

But now, I get where they’re coming from and I think I’m getting on that bandwagon.

Now. If a kid is not really enjoying reading at all, but will read a book that’s considered twaddle, I do think that’s better than reading nothing at all. Still, it’s a good idea to infuse the kid with some good books, too.

[End rant.]

I like owning children’s books because by nature, kids like to read their favorites over and over again. There’s something special about owning your own book.

Here’s how I’m acquiring great children’s books without paying full-price:

:: I browsed book lists from sources such as Honey For a Child’s Heart*, Ambleside Online, Sonlight, My Father’s World kindergarten, Five in a Row, etc. I used these lists as a starting point, because I knew if they made these lists, they’d be way above a lot of garbage out there.

:: I added many titles to Johnny’s Shelfari account, and added tags to sort by reading list. Seeing the cover art helps, because if I’m quickly browsing a huge shelf of books, the ones on my list might jump out at me a little bit quicker.

:: I went to my library’s online catalog and searched to see what they had. I added those books to a list within my library account — not placing them on hold, but simply adding them to a list so I could quickly search for them later if I wanted.

:: We are borrowing many from the library, getting to know some of the authors’ styles and just plain having fun with the books.

:: The ones we enjoyed, we ended up reading a few times before returning. These were also ones high on my list to own someday. Some books on those acclaimed reading lists just plain didn’t do anything for us, so it’s not like anyone’s reading list is a gold standard; it’s a starting point.

:: I hit Goodwill. Alone. I went through every children’s book they had at a rapid-fire pace. I knew more of what I was seeking and I pulled titles from the shelves and placed them into my cart. Once I was through the shelves, I went back to my cart to look at my selections more carefully. Some, I returned to the shelves. That day, I found 17 titles at .69 each to bring home.

:: Some neighbors had a yard sale, and I wandered over and found at least a dozen other books I wanted from .25 – $1 a piece.

:: I went to a used homeschool curriculum sale and grabbed another stack in that .25 – $1 range.

In just those three outings, I’ve acquired a lot of books for a decent price. Didn’t take much effort, and we have probably an entire summer’s worth of books to read just on our own shelves.

Some books I am indeed buying new, if the price is right. I couldn’t find “The Little House” in those last searches, so I did order the four-book treasury for $13.60*. Not bad at all. I’m eyeing a few other titles that I may end up buying later in the year. Maybe birthday presents? Swagbucks, MyPoints giftcards and Amazon affiliate gift cards can all help me lower my out-of-pocket cost.

I like the treasury concept, but some of them just fall short. If they’re too abrupt with the illustrations and condense the story too much, it can just lose its effect and it’s not nearly as good as the original. Some stories within our 20th Century Children’s Book Treasury* are fine, but others we prefer the original presentation. Still, I’ve found some books within that treasu
ry that I wouldn’t have otherwise known about, so it is still definitely worth owning to me.

I’ve seen some lots of books on eBay, and that’s another option if a seller has many items you’d like — usually cheaper than buying new and faster than hunting them all down one-by-one.

Do you buy children’s books, or do you prefer to borrow them? What’s your strategy for saving money?

*affiliate link

7 Responses to “How I’m acquiring good children’s books for a good price”

  1. I buy lots of children’s books at garage sales and library sales. (The last library sale netted me a bag full of hardback books for $.08 apiece!) I’m currently trying to aquire quality hardback copies of literature for older children through “Alice in Wonderland” and “The Chronicles of Narnia” are on their way to my mailbox now. In addition to my mental list of books I want on our shelves, I always keep an eye out for books featuring characters of other races, cultures and countries. Children’s classics are almost exclusively about white children, so these books are generally newer titles I may not have on my radar.
    Our library’s children’s section (and otherwise) is 90% “twaddle,” so we rarely use it. I hate telling Roanin “no” when he’s picked out a book that’s just further propaganda for a cheap plastic toy series.
    My mom enjoys being “the Grandma who buys books,” so titles I really want but can’t find used are put on birthday and Christmas lists. That’s how we got our copy of “The Little House.”

  2. Great post, having access to good books for children I think is essential! .. I think the same applies once you’re out of the < 5 age range as well.

    I remember we had a stack of books on how things worked and old science magazines like Popular Science etc that all served to stoke our interest in the sciences generally.

    Old magazines can be bought for virtually nothing and if science or history based don't really date

  3. Those are good tips. Our little boy is just over a year old, and he loves books. He’ll sit in my lap while I read a whole stack of books to him. Luckily we’ve had aunts and grandparents buy most of them, but when it comes time for us to buy more of his books I’ll certainly look into these options.
    Justin @ The Family Finances´s last post ..Tips For The High School Graduate

  4. I go to BN and read them there. The store is 4 blocks away so it’s great for the kids.

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Hey! I'm Kacie, wife to Shane and mother to Jonathan (7), Vivienne (5) and Amelia (2) . I write about my family's finance: how we save money, improve our spending, and plan for the future.

I hope I can inspire and encourage you to improve your situation. See disclosure.

I'm adopting a much slower-paced posting schedule, and treating this as a hobby blog now.

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