Little girl getting a book in the mail from Dolly Parton's Imagination Library
Babies & Toddlers

6 Ways to Build Your Children’s Library on a Budget

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Hi there! 

This post is one of a four part series on reading with babies and toddlers in honor of the fall “back-to-school” season.

In This Series:

I don’t know about you, but one of my two year old’s favorite things to do is read…and read…and read some more! 

Books can get quite pricey, so I’ve learned some tricks for growing our children’s library on a budget. And I’m pleased to say we’ve grown quite the collection along the way.

Here are 6 amazing ways to build your children’s library for little to no cost!

1. The Library 

Though you may not be purchasing them, checking books out from the library is a great way to keep your children’s library at home filled with fresh reading materials every few weeks. It’s the perfect place to start if you are on a budget, and children love checking books out with their library card.

My library sends our family personalized email recommendations for books for each child by age every week, and I can even reserve books in advance online. It’s pretty sweet! Check with your library to see what kind of programs they offer. 

Also, be sure to ask about book sales. Many libraries offer sales throughout the year where you can snag books for just cents!

Lastly, many libraries (and also apparently Barnes And Noble I have heard) offer summer reading programs for kids. These programs customarily offer free books as incentives to encourage your child to read over the summer. My two year old and infant earned FIVE FREE board books from our library this summer just by logging a few minutes a day. Woohoo!

2. Ask for Books Instead of Cards

This is becoming a trend because it’s a very smart!  It makes so much sense to parents and guests alike to have guests of baby showers, birthday or holiday parties etc. to save their money on cards and put it towards something that can be kept and cherished forever instead. Especially as cards get more and more expensive. 

Make it fun and take the pressure off of guests to spend by including a light-hearted poem on invites such as “Instead of a card, please bring a book. Pre-loved or brand new, it will be special if it’s signed by you!” 

3. Sign Up for Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library 

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is a book gifting program that mails a free book every month to children from birth to age five, no strings attached. REALLY!

Sign your kiddo up as soon as they are born as it typically takes a few months for them to start receiving books. 

4. Garage Sales

Garage sales can be a huge win for scoring kids items and books cheaply. People at garage sales are usually trying to get rid of stuff and declutter so you can usually get a great deal. 

Pro tip: Bring your super cute kiddo along and have them make an offer for the books they want with piggy bank money for a REAL screamin’ deal 😉

Of course thrifting is available year round and a very affordable way to get books as well! I’ve just found that at garage sales I can either negotiate for a better price, or find very special and/or high quality books for thrift store prices. 

5. Amazon

Search “bargain children’s books” on Amazon and you’d be surprised at some of the deals populated. They have books on sale at all times and they are frequently changing. I’ve seen board books as low as $1.48 with prime shipping included. That’s a good deal!

Little Golden Books are also very affordable. I just got this super cute Tangled book for less than two dollars on Amazon because Hazel decided she’s in a Rapunzel phase and she loves it. 

As a bonus, Amazon frequently offers FREE children’s ebooks for Kindle available to download at no cost – which are great for road trips or screen time.

little girl holds childrens library books

6. Search for a Little Free Library Near You

Little Free Library is a global non-profit book sharing movement who partners with volunteers to be stewards of “little free libraries” in their communities. 

The little free libraries themselves are little book boxes on posts that resemble a birdhouse. They are set up in neighborhoods and function as a sort of free, ongoing neighborhood book swap. They are so cute and fun to visit! 

There are two within walking distance to us and Hazel loves visiting the “libraries” to swap an old book for a new one or just borrow one she’s never read before. 

You can use the search feature on Little Free Library’s website to see if there is one near you. If not, you could consider becoming a steward and hosting your own Little Free Library in your neighborhood! Or simply take the idea and host a book swap party with other friends with kids the same ages. Either way, it’s a great opportunity to exchange books you are no longer using for something new and exciting!

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