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Thursday Three: Thrifty Reading

Posted by Pam on March 18, 2010 at 8:55 AM in creative literacy
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I have discovered that the one advantage to losing your job is that you can close down pushy salesmen immediately. Apparently there is no answer in the sales patter that matches, "Now that I'm unemployed, I just can't spare the money."

Nobody is going to argue that we're in tough times and even if your finances haven't changed, you've probably become a bit more cautious and thrifty in response to the economic situation. Here I have another advantage, because I've always had a frugal streak and a nose for bargains. When I hear about kids in our country without books at home, I'm upset that these kids are missing this important literacy exposure, and I'm also frustrated knowing that it doesn't need to be expensive to have books.

Maybe feeling the pinch lately, you've cut restaurant outings or Starbucks grandes or - sigh - new, cute shoes. But you don't need to cut books, though you can change the way you get them.

1. The Library - Duh. You may roll your eyes at my noting the library as a place to get books, and that's okay. I can take it. Of course you know it exists, that it's there as a source of free books, but that doesn't mean you're taking full advantage of this generous resource. Yes, you can check out books. You can also take your kids to programs, including some for older children that might not require your actual presence in the room allowing you to skim the magazine section. When my kids were young, we sat and read some of the books there and then took a few of those home. It made reading time special to be doing it in the library, and offered a chance to try some new titles. Utilize the librarians to get suggestions on good books for the kids, instead of wasting money on something disappointing. And don't forget all of the resources in the library that can save you money by giving you information in the form of home repairs, craft projects, exercise programs, and financial planning.

2. Book Sales - There are many kind of book sales, and which works best depends your own needs and free time. Libraries often run book sales, either as an event or an ongoing sale. You can do extremely well here, picking up some great hardbacks for a buck or two while supporting the library. Win-win. Thrift stores also sell books, though the selection and quality varies from place to place. I find the special kid consignment stores rather pricey on books, but I do have to admit that they are generally better organized. When I feel like heading to the bookstore, I do so mostly to browse the bargain books and overstocks. I'll also use some mindless Internet time - maybe while supervising homework - to browse the bargain books section on Amazon. I've bought some amazing books this way, including standards that must be temporary overstocks or something. Otherwise I can't explain the continual appearance of titles by Mo Willems, Rick Riordan, and Neil Gaiman.

3. Book Exchanges - Some schools or community centers have a Leave-a-Book/Take-a-Book plan, but if not you can start your own. Set up a book exchange for your own school, preschool, playgroup, neighborhood, or workplace. Having a dedicated shelf for the book exchanges is a small way to start. You can set up systems of one-to-one exchanges or credits, or be more loose about it, hoping that books simply find a good home. You could arrange a larger scale trade at your child's school and donate the books that aren't chosen to a charity that can get them into the right hands.

What book ideas do you have for the frugal family?


Boni writes... is an online book exchange my crit partner uses and LOVES (I haven't signed up yet, but it's on my to-do-list :)

Julie writes...

Likewise, bookmooch is a great option. There you can swap both hardcover and paperbacks. I've gotten loads of books using the site. You get points for sending books you no longer want (costs about $2.50 to send a book in the U.S. via media mail), and you use points to receive (mooch) books you do want. When you receive books, the sender pays the postage. It's a very good deal and lots of people offer 2 books for 1 point on children's books.

Go to for more info.

Beth writes...

Dolly Parton's Imagination Library is a wonderful resource for people who live in participating communities. It mails us a children's book every month.

Betsy writes...

As a librarian, I heartily endorse suggestion #1! Many libraries, ours included,offer literacy and other educational programs free of charge. Plus, it's a place to meet other parents and kids. Right now, I'm planning a series of science programs for young children to spark their curiosity about the world and roll up their sleeves and experience slimy gooey stuff. We work with local businesses, non-profits, and other organizations to sponsor programs and create community involvement. Check out your local library - you'll be amazed at what they offer. And, advocate for them during these tough times so they'll be there for your kids throughout their lives.

Julie writes...

I agree with the post on Imagination Library. It is an excellent program. The child is sent a book a month until they are 5 years old. Another excellent program is the Hippy program. It is a school readiness program that provides preschool lessons and free books to children between the ages of 3 and 5 years old. They provide 9 books a year so if you are in the program all three years as we have been, your child will have 27 books when it is over. If it is available in your area, I highly recommend it. The website is

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