Back to School Giveaway: Building a Classroom Library

Building a Classroom Library |

“Any book that helps a child to form a habit of reading, to make reading one of his deep and continuing needs, is good for him.”

–Maya Angelou

“A child sitting in a quiet room with a good book isn’t a flashy or marketable teaching method. It just happens to be the only way one became a reader.”

–Nancie Atwell


I’ve yet to meet a teacher who isn’t passionate about instilling a love of reading in their students. I’ve also yet to meet a teacher who has a budget for buying independent reading materials for their classroom. Yet, my social media feed is full of smart, caring teachers who are using all of their resources and their own money to bring fun and diverse books into their classroom.

So, how are they doing it?

  1. They are raiding their personal bookshelves, their friend’s bookshelves, yard sales, used bookstores – pretty much any where they can get their hands on a book for cheap or for free.
  2. They are leveraging book clubs (like Scholastic’s) and book fairs, making the most of bonus points and freebies.
  3. They are seeking book donations from students, parents, and from the public through crowd-funding sources like Donors Choose and organizations like First Book and the Book Love Foundation.
  4. They are visiting their library book sales and taking advantage of the Library of Congress’s Surplus Books Program.
  5. They are following authors on social media. Authors – especially debut authors and authors who have a new book coming out – are giving away books all the time on social media. Follow them. Chat with them. And enter their giveaways. Authors love to see their books in classrooms. They also love to connect with teachers and students.

In an effort to help with your classroom library building efforts, I put out a call to some middle grade author friends who have generously agreed to donate the following books to the cause. Five lucky teachers will win 5 books each to help jump-start their classroom libraries. All you have to do to enter is comment below and tell us how you plan to grow and use a classroom library this school year. Then get ready for some pretty amazing book mail!

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit STANLEY WILL PROBABLY BE FINE by Sally J Pla.

This funny and moving second novel from the author of The Someday Birds features comic trivia, a safety superhero, and a super-cool scavenger hunt all over downtown San Diego, as our young hero Stanley Fortinbras grapples with his anxiety—and learns what, exactly, it means to be brave.


Support Independent Bookstores - Visit A DASH OF DRAGON by Heidi Lang and Katie Bartkowski

A thirteen-year-old chef has a lot to prove as she tries to run a five-star restaurant, repay a greedy loan shark, and outsmart the Elven mafia in this entertaining novel that combines all the best ingredients—fantasy, humor, adventure, action, cute boys, and a feisty heroine!


Support Independent Bookstores - Visit THE UNLIKELY STORY OF A PIG IN THE CITY by Jodi Kendall

This delightful middle grade novel is a modern-day homage to Charlotte’s Web, perfect for fans of Katherine Applegate and Cammie McGovern.

A little pig in a big city leads to lots of trouble!


Support Independent Bookstores - Visit THE TRAGICALLY TRUE ADVENTURES OF KIT DONOVAN by Patricia Bailey

Life in a Nevada mining town in 1905 is not easy for 13-year-old Kit Donovan, who is trying to do right by her deceased mother and become a proper lady. When Kit discovers Papa’s boss at the gold mine is profiting from unsafe working conditions, she realizes being a lady is tougher than it looks.


Support Independent Bookstores - Visit HOLLY FARB AND THE PRINCESS OF THE GALAXY by Gareth Wronski

Guardians of the Galaxy meets Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in this laugh-out-loud funny journey into space and beyond. Holly Farb is not the Princess of the Galaxy. She may be top of the class in every subject, but she can’t even win a school election, never mind rule the Milky Way.


Support Independent Bookstores - Visit ENGINERDS by Jarett Lerner

The battle between boys and bots is on in this funny, fast-paced novel. Ken is an EngiNerd: one of a super-smart group of friends—all nerds—who have been close since kindergarten.



Support Independent Bookstores - Visit KAT GREENE COMES CLEAN by Melissa Roske

Kat Greene lives in New York City and attends fifth grade in the very progressive Village Humanity School. At the moment she has three major problems—dealing with her boy-crazy best friend, partnering with the overzealous Sam in the class production of Harriet the Spy, and coping with her mother’s preoccupation with cleanliness, a symptom of her worsening obsessive-compulsive disorder.


Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgCOOKIE CUTTERS AND SLED RUNNERS by Natalie Rompella

Most kids would dread the start of middle school and the year-long Explorations project that comes with it, but Ana knows that her + her best friend Lily + their plan to write and sell their own cookbook is a recipe for success.


Support Independent Bookstores - Visit ODDITY by Sarah Cannon

Join a tough eleven-year-old as she faces down zombie rabbits, alien mobs, and Puppet Cartels while trying to find her missing twin in Sarah Cannon’s imaginative middle-grade debut, Oddity.



Support Independent Bookstores - Visit ONE BRAVE SUMMER by Kiersi Burkhart and Amber J. Keyser

Paley Dixon is not excited about six weeks on a horse ranch without access to the virtual world of Dragonfyre. In-game, she’s the Blue Elf, strong and powerful. In the real world, she’s coming off a bad year after moving from Los Angeles to Denver. At least Prince, the majestic horse she’s paired with at Quartz Creek Ranch, makes her feel like royalty.


Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgTHE LONG TRAIL HOME  by Kiersi Burkhart and Amber J. Keyser

Rivka can’t wait to get away from her family for the summer. Since that terrible day last year, she wants no part in their Jewish community. At least at Quartz Creek Ranch, she feels worlds away from home among the Colorado scenery, goofy ranch owners, and baby animals.


Support Independent Bookstores - Visit AT TOP SPEED by Kiersi Burkhart and Amber J. Keyser

For Ella, winning has always been the goal, and at Quartz Creek Ranch, she’s pretty sure she’ll ace horseback riding too. There’s just one hitch in her plan: Figure Eight, the beautiful quarter horse she’s paired with, won’t listen to a word she says.


Support Independent Bookstores - Visit SHY GIRL AND SHY GUY by Kiersi Burkhart and Amber J. Keyser

For every kid, there’s a horse that can help. At least, that’s the idea at Quartz Creek Ranch. But Hanna doubts it will be true for her. Going to Quartz Creek was her mother’s idea; Hanna’s too terrified of horses to even go near them.


Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgUNDER LOCKER AND KEY by Allison K. Hymas

Eleven-year-old Jeremy Wilderson teams up with his rival crime fighter to stop the stealing spree that’s wreaking havoc on Scottsville Middle School in this action-packed MAX novel.



Support Independent Bookstores - Visit THE DOLLMAKER OF KRAKOW by R.M. Romero

In the vein of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas and Number the Stars, this fusion of fairy tales, folklore, and World War II history eloquently illustrates the power of love and the inherent will to survive even in the darkest of times.


Support Independent Bookstores - Visit NIGHT OF THE LIVING CUDDLE BUNNIES by Jonathan Rosen

Twelve-year-old Devin Dexter has a problem. Well, actually, many of them. His cousin, Tommy, sees conspiracies behind every corner. And Tommy thinks Devin’s new neighbor, Herb, is a warlock . . . but nobody believes him. Even Devin’s skeptical. But soon strange things start happening. Things like the hot new Christmas toy, the Cuddle Bunny, coming to life.


Support Independent Bookstores - Visit SKELETON TREE by Kim Ventrella

Twelve-year-old Stanly knows the bone growing in his yard is a little weird, but that’s okay, because now he’ll have the perfect photo to submit to the Young Discoverer’s Competition. With such a unique find, he’s sure to win the grand prize.


Support Independent Bookstores - Visit VILONIA BEEBE TAKES CHARGE by Kristin Gray

Being responsible is NOT easy. Fourth grader Vilonia hasn’t lost her rain coat in the three weeks she’s had it and she’s brushed her teeth every night and she’s volunteered to be the Friday Library Helper. But all that hard work is worth it if it means she can get a dog.


Support Independent Bookstores - Visit THE FIRST RULE OF PUNK by Celia C. Perez (donated by Kristin Gray)

The First Rule of Punk is a wry and heartfelt exploration of friendship, finding your place, and learning to rock out like no one’s watching.

Black and white illustrations and collage art throughout make The First Rule of Punk a perfect pick for fans of books like Roller Girl and online magazines like Rookie.


Support Independent Bookstores - Visit THE FRAME-UP by Wendy McLeod MacKnight

When Sargent Singer discovers that the paintings in his father’s gallery are alive, he is pulled into a captivating world behind the frame that he never knew existed. Filled with shady characters, devious plots, and a grand art heist, this inventive mystery-adventure celebrates art and artists and is perfect for fans of Night at the Museum and Blue Balliett’s Chasing Vermeer.


Support Independent Bookstores - Visit LOST BOYS by Darcey Rosenblatt

Based on historical events, this unforgettable and inspiring tale for middle-grade readers is about a young boy torn from the only life he’s ever known and held captive as a prisoner of war.



Support Independent Bookstores - Visit THE STAR THIEF by Lindsey Becker

Honorine’s life as a maid at the Vidalia mansion is rather dull, dusting treasures from faraway places and daydreaming in front of maps of the world. But everything changes when she catches two brutish sailors ransacking Lord Vidalia’s study, and then follows a mysterious girl with wings out into the night….


Support Independent Bookstores - Visit P.S. I MISS YOU by Jen Petro-Roy

Evie is heartbroken when her strict Catholic parents send her pregnant sister, Cilla, away to stay with a distant great-aunt. All Evie wants is for her older sister to come back. Forbidden from speaking to Cilla, Evie secretly sends her letters.



Thanks so much to all of the authors who donated these amazing books!

Teachers, enter to win by commenting below and telling us how you plan to grow and use a classroom library this school year.

Winners will be chosen randomly on September 14th. (US entries only, please.)
Watch this blog post for the announcement.

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Patricia Bailey
Patricia Bailey is the author of the middle-grade historical novel The Tragically True Adventures of Kit Donovan. She blogs here and at her website
  1. What a thoughtful, generous giveaway! As many educators have, I send a lot of my own money purchasing books for our classroom library. My fourth graders take books home every night and sometimes love them so much, they forget to return them! I’d use these to replace some of those well-loved favorites and add new favorites to the mix. I’d also love to be able to share some of them to help grow the libraries in my friends’ classrooms.

  2. I encourage my students to read when ever I can. I talk about favorite authors. I ask them what they are interested in & what they are reading as well as what they like to read. I try to bring these things to our classroom library. I build some silent reading time into our day, even if it is only a few minutes. I allow students to take books home from our classroom library. We also have student led book clubs.

  3. Forgot to mention that I do let students take books home to read, so books often need to be replaced when they get “adopted” out. I am hoping this year to give every child in my classes (38 kids) a book of their own to take at the end of 3rd grade to celebrate their growth throughout the year. I always let students know that they can come borrow books from THEIR (not MY) classroom library even after they have moved into other grades.
    I make it a priority to read as many middle grade books as I can. I always have a stack, and I talk about a different book pretty much every day, as well as our readalouds, first chapter Fridays, and my “currently reading” sign. I am working on hanging up pics of the books I read this summer – all 50. My students know that reading is IMPORTANT, and my life reflects that.

  4. I love adding to my classroom library! I am constantly watching for book giveaways on twitter and instagram. I use Scholastic Book Clubs and encourage parents to buy books for their children so we can earn points – and I always buy books at our Scholastic book fairs. Our local library has a shelf of donated/weeded books that they sell for 25/50 cents, so I try to check that weekly. We also have a local charity/thrift shop that sells donated books for 50 cents to a dollar! If I am looking for specific books to fill out a series or add to my library, I will order from Target or Amazon. If authors offer signed books through their local indies, I pre-order as often as I can. And if there are author events, I plan for those so that I can purchase books to sign. We only have one independent bookstore remotely close to me, but I try to support them when I can. I also check Half Price Books fairly often, and Barnes & Noble when they have sales. I always ask for gift cards for my birthday and other holidays that I can use to buy books. Also, Book Outlet has terrific prices on books!

  5. I’d be using it to build the classroom library of a first year teacher! Thanks for sharing!

  6. I would love to begin a loaner book program with these books and have the students follow up with a recommendation sheet so others can determine if they would like to read that particular book.

  7. Wow! This is an amazing oppirtunity!!! Thank you to all the authors who donated! I am a reading specialist at a 5th-8th grade middle school and I am passionate about motivating kids to grow as readers! I am constantly working to build my classroom library through library book sales, thrift stores shopping extravaganzas, and splurges on Amazon. I also love connecting with authors and tweeting about my students’ reactions to their books. My goal is to help students fall in love with books and develop their reading identity. Thanks again for this awesome opportunity!!!

    • Oy! Please excuse that embarrassing typo!!! ? *opportunity!

  8. I’m loving reading all of your plans for the school year! You all are amazing!!

  9. I teach in a high poverty area and what would be considered a book desert. Very few of my students don’t have access to books at home and our school/ district budget doesn’t allot money to purchase books for classroom libraries or our school library. I currently use First Book and Scholastic to stock my classroom library (as well as donations from wish lists and Donors Choose). I plan on sharing Game Changer: Book Access for All with my administration and hope to find money in the budget to help teachers buy books. Thanks for the chance to add these to my classroom library!

  10. I would love to add more books to my classroom library this year. Scholastic is a fantastic way to do that! They have amazing books for an even better price!

  11. I am a middle school teacher who tutors students almost nightly in reading. I am putting together a free library, challenging my students to read outside of school time. I lend my books and then students tell me about the book, as well as read their favorite passages to me. My library just needs more books. Thank you for this opportunity!

  12. As a new teacher, I have been doing all the things to start up my classroom library that you have stated in your post. It is hard on a first year teacher because not only do you have school loans, but then you are taxed with supplying books for the class. I am teaching in a Title one school, so asking parents for help is not an option unfortunately. But as an extensive reader, I know the importance reading, so it would be great to win this set for the classroom!

  13. I teach general science and also am a Little Free Library steward. I am always checking out library used book sales, tag sales, thrift stores and will occasionally buy new books if they’re a really cool addition to my science collection. I love flipping through my books too!

  14. I am posting book covers of all the books I’ve read this year on my desk and genre-fying the school library. I am sure once the fiction is in genres I will need to add to the most popular ones — There are never enough scary books for the elementary crowd!

  15. I’m challenging my sixth graders to read 40 books this year! I think it’s my job to be their supplier. 🙂