Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Buyng children's books

Throughout our many moves, we've passed along more books than I could count, leaning on the city library system for fresh supplies. There's nothing to make you scrutinize a title like the prospect of lifting yet another box full.

Lately, I've been wavering. Buying older kids' books that we've enjoyed elsewhere. Realizing that it's getting harder to find used copies under a quarter even at yard sales.

I have a love/hate relationship with these Scholastic-style paperbacks. Love the lower cost, love that so many fit into a small space--hate how kids can't see the title when shelved. a

What's your philosophy on assembling the frugal family library? Are children's paperbacks disposable quality? Do you invest only in hardbacks? I'd love to know!


Jen said...

I sometimes put our skinny paperbacks in a basket. The kids love to "leaf" through them for a good one. Bookshelves don't work well for us, anyway.

sillysiller said...

I love books and I tended to buy anything I could. Now that I am trying to thin out my bookcases, I tend to only spend on hard covers and tend to buy for older children.
I homeschool 6 kids and for some reason, I overlook my younger children. Lucky for me, I have not given up all my paperback childrens book. I had lots, but now I just get the classics and award winners.

Anonymous said...

I maybe should not comment on this because I am biased on the subject, but just be very careful about relying on just what the libraries have to offer. Sadly, the libraries are a reflection of the culture around them, and a lot of the materials have a very decided godless/new age/ revisionist history slant to them. Obviously, not all of them, and I love the library as much as anyone else. But, in my experience, the older books that libraries get rid of, or that you can get at a garage sale or thrift store, FAR surpass many of the more contemporary books on many subjects. Some of the older books I have on Thanksgiving and the pilgrims/puritans for example, are very explicit in their God-centered orientation. They are COMPLETELY different than modern books, and they give my kids a much deeper, more historically accurate picture of the men and women of that time. And that is true for a lot of other subjects. So my best advice is to skip a lot of the modern, poor quality literature, and seek out the wealth of books for your kids that can still easily be found second hand. Honestly, I think the library we have assembled from almost entirely second-hand sources is just about one of the greatest treasures we have! It's worth the space it takes in our home!!


Anonymous said...

I'll make one more comment since i didn't really even answer the question in your blog! To me, i prefer hardback, but I will gladly buy a paperback if the content is good. Oftentimes, i will buy a book in paperback that has definitely seen better days, and then upgrade to a better copy if/when i find one later. And you'd be surprised how often that happens when you are constantly on the lookout for books when you shop the thrift stores and garage sales!

Anne Marie@Married to the Empire said...

I don't have kids, but I've been a book collector since I was a child. Personally, I find those boxes full of books a wonderful thing to move. Heavy, yes, but that's what the movers are for. ;-)

As a kid I bought what I could afford. I could have spent my allowance on hardbacks, but if I bought paperbacks, I could buy more. I still have those old paperbacks, and they're on the bookshelves in my living room. They're not the best quality paper, but they're well loved, and that's why I keep them around. I've also learned that visitors love to scan my collection and talk about the books.

I have upgraded some of them to hardbacks. My Frances Hodgson Burnett books are all hardbacks, Chroncicles of Narnia, etc. But the rest are still the old paperbacks.

When I buy books for my nieces, I usually buy paperback for the same reason I did as a kid: I can buy more. To me, having the written word at one's disposal whenever it's wanted (meaning not having to wait for some other kid to return it to the library) is true wealth. That's not to say that I don't think you should use the library, because you definitely should. But for well-loved stories, it's nice for kids to have their own copies, IMO.

The Mom said...

We live literally next door to the public library, so don't buy a lot of hard back information type books (why buy when we can borrow), but paperbacks that I know will be read and loved to near death, I do buy, tho almost always second hand.

I love the look of a well worn well loved dog eared book that's spent hours under pillows or being read in spare moments all thru the day.

We don't have time or space for adult books, but love children's.

Anonymous said...

Meredith, We have always made flat book racks for our children.
When they were pre schoolers the racks were at floor level and about 3ft by 2x about i inch We put a wooden surround then had battens that held the books in place so you were displaying the books so the children could see them at a glance. It was easy to tidy up too.
Now my youngest son is a mentally disabled teen we have bought a similar rack from a school supplies catalogue made from plastci coated wire. Its about 5ft high and 2 1/2 ft wide. He LOVES books but this way he can see and choose his own.

The homemade version was PERFECT when the kids were younger though.


Anonymous said...

We travel a lot and so lightweight books were de riguer, especially when the kids began reading chapter books, therefore, paperbacks.

Upgraded to hardback only if found at a great price and well-loved enough to grant real estate in the house.

When they were little, I Spy and Look-Alike books were purchased in hardback, no exceptions, because they were used daily. Come to think of it, does I Spy come in paperback?

I never had a satisfying system for storage, though!

deb meyers

debbie said...

My weakness is books. I prefer hardcover for the classics. I am a firm believer in a classical education. I shop for books at yard sales, thrift shops and flea markets. I also use craigs list, and our local book fair. I think a good book is worth every penny we invest. I just moved and I know what you mean about heavy boxes! We have four kids and I kept most of ours to hand down.

Hopewell said...

Bigger kids books, with fewer or no illustrations are just fine in paperback. I scan the Clearance isle at Half Price Books regularly for these. I also dump ones were done with at the same store. They don't pay well, but we live on a private road in the middle of nowhere so garage sales aren't worth it.

Little kid books--board books are best, then hard back. If they're loved they'll be read "to death" so it's worth it. I still look first at Half Price Books or used on Amazon though.

My pet peeve are tv-movie tie-in books, but even they have their place. I included the "Magic School Bus" science books and the Bernstein Bears series in my listmania list of best homeschooling books See:

Anonymous said...

Most of our books are paper back, but I can get more for the money this way and my kids love books, they each have an almost full bookcase in there rooms and we are constantly buying more books. As well as borrowing tons each week from the library.
My boys are 6 and 2 so once they are older I will probably buy them the classics in hard back for them to have for their children, but for now the paperbacks are best for us with the money, especially if my 2 yr old finds a rougue crayon and decides to "decorate" a book, then I'm out maybe a 1.00 instead of much more.

Milehimama @ Mama Says said...

I like the cheap paperbacks. We have seven children, and I simply cannot afford to buy high quality, twaddle free books for all of them.
Also, children value what they own. I probably err on the side of owning too many!
I solved the problem by using plastic shoeboxes, turned sideways (horizontal). I try to group books together (i.e., animal books together, WWII books together, Community Helper books together (our Fireman and Policeman type books seem to multiply). I try to set it up like a library, so I have some shelves with non-fiction, other shelves with fiction.

And I give away all of the books involving TV characters (excepting Magic Schoolbus). So Elmo, Yugi-Oh, and Hannah Montana Learns About Snow or whatever all go straight to Goodwill.

Anonymous said...

When my children were the ages of yours, they thought it was a treat to go to the library and get "new" books. We actually did it because it was free entertainment! I could not afford gymboree, chuck e cheese, etc. I read to my kids every day. Then they started reading to me. Both became Honor Students. One is leaving for college this summer. When people ask me for advice on getting their little ones ahead academically, I tell them.....go to the library and READ to them. Free, easy fun!

I always requested hardback books as birthday or christmas gifts. Now as teens....they are back on their wishlists....books!

The school bookfair ( scholastic) was always a hit. That is where we picked up good deals on trendy paperbacks (they have a clearance section!)....We always passed those on to others or donated them to the classroom when we were finished with them. They both had little bookcases in their rooms and would arrange and organize their books ( or play "library"). Their library cards were the first "card" in their wallets. My daughter is 15 and her library card has her signature from when she was 4!!! cute!


Anonymous said...

I don't have kids, so I can't answer your question, but I recommend adding the titles of books on the spines of books that don't have titles.

You could write the title right on the spine. Or you could write it on a piece of tape and put the tape on the spine of the book. Or you could make a book cover and write it on the book cover.

Sis. Lori P. said...

I am a part time "Library Specialist" at our local library while I have raised our seven kids, homeschooled five of I see and have seen LOTS of books in my years. When my boys were all very young, I did the thrift store/garage sale option of getting books just because I wanted them around...and I really mean AROUND. Those books were well loved and looked at constantly. And I didn't have to have a nervous breakdown if one got milk spilled on it. As they grew older, we went more and more to the public library and what a treasure that was! More books, more imagination, more information! When my kids got even older, and I became a librarian, I would (and still do!)bring home interesting books and just set them on the betcha; within hours just about every one of my kids had picked that book up and at least perused it! Now that they are mostly grown and I have grandbabies, I carefully consider the books I buy for them and only get the hardback.

Dianna said...

I've gotten much more picky of late with what books I'll buy. If it's something we're going to read over and over again, great. I'll take it. If not, well . . . we just don't have room.

If I see a book we want in good condition secondhand, I'll usually take it whether it's paperback or hardcover. If I'm going to go to the trouble of buying a new copy, I'm going to consider a hardcover more seriously.

Anonymous said...

I prefer hardcover because they feel and look so much nicer (I love to be the first to open the cover of a hardback!), but not every book comes in hardcover and we can't always afford it anyway. I've tried to buy classics in hardcover, though, and each of my daughters has her own copies of the classics. We have three sets of some books like the Anne of Green Gable series or the Little House series or Narnia (my set and a set for each daughter) because my husband and I are building libraries for them to take to their own households when they are adults. Other books we all share. We've had a lot of "luck" buying good hardbacks from the Borders bargain tables or even slightly used from Amazon. We always give books as gifts for birthdays and Christmas, and both girls love getting them and request them. Like sis.lorip said, we like to have books all around the house. Sometimes one of my kids will really enjoy something she's gotten from the library and will want a copy for herself. There is a real joy of ownership of much-loved titles; we encourage that. We shy away from junk and faddish things, even when we can get them free from the library. As far as my husband and I go, so often the books we want to read are not available at the library. It's either buy them or don't read them, although sometimes we can borrow from friends.

About a year ago I went through all our picture books (both girls have way outgrown them) with the idea that I would keep only about a dozen of our very favorites, but I ended up with about four times that amount~~books I just didn't want to part with! The remaining 200 or so (gulp! most of these were bought by grandparents) I took to church and either put in the nursery or gave away to the young members of our congregation. It was hard to part with so many "friends," but it did help to know they were going to good, appreciatve homes. We saved our favorite books for our future grandchildren. Our own girls always thought it was a treat to read Grandma and Grandpa's picture books when we visited, and we wanted to keep that tradition going.

Paula said...

Hey Merideth! Use those gutter bookshelves! :D Hubby decided not to do them after we were blessed with one of those magazine racks. So we use that for our flat books.

I personally like the hardcover (or at least anything besides the flat books). It allows ME to see the titles of the books. We have SO MANY that there is no way the children can read them all. I try to rotate books for the children. I will bring some out of "hiding" and sprawl them out on the reading table (yes, we created a table that holds books). Usually they all have the same theme. Right now, they are all Christmas. A few weeks ago it was all ocean.

That is one of the things I love about Paperback Swap. Most all of the books I have gotten on there are not the scholastic thin kind! :)

I agree about the warning about libraries. It is getting difficult to allow the children to just go in and grab a book. Some of the stuff they see while looking for an appropriate book is very inappropriate. I try to keep them to the non-fiction sections, but even in there you have to be careful (twisting American history, proponents of evolution, etc.). Good luck!

Oh, yeah, if you are interested in joining PaperBack Swap, there is a link on my web page. I get a book credit if you use my email when joining. :) Imagine how many book credits YOU would get with over 900 readers! :)

Saralyn said...

We love, love, love books but buy paperbacks only for classics until we find them in hardback. Our favorite "store" is the library discard cart where everything is in super strong library binding and always 50-cents or less.

Anonymous said...

Ahh. Books.

Two bookcases in the living room; 3 bookcases in the office; at least one bookcase in each bedroom; a couple of small bookshelves in the dining room; and a WALL of bookshelves in the den. I keep books in the bathroom too.

Yes, we like books.

But, how to manage all those books? Well, we categorize:

First, there's a library shelf. It's one of the 4-foot-wide den shelves, and it's usually full. Having a designated library shelf helps a LOT when trying to keep track of everyone's books.

A lot of our homeschooling books are in the living room, where we sit for read alouds. Our daily-use homeschooling books (math, language arts, workbooks) have their own shelf in the den. And our use-later HS books live in the office, along with some of DH's textbooks, car repair manuals, etc.

I could go on, with different categories of fiction, other textbooks, cookbooks, bathroom books, etc. But I think you get the idea.

Now, what do I buy? Everything! Seriously, if it find it thrifting, and I think someone will enjoy it, I buy it. This Christmas, 3 of my family members will get books I found thrifting ...The Calvin and Hobbs were 'expensive' at $2 apiece, and the Gail Levine hardbound cost me 10 cents.

Like some of the other posters, I have spend big bucks on favorite hardbacks ... Narnia, Harry Potter, etc. But, for everyday reading, I strew things around without worrying if they're going to fall into the bathtub. So, a 25-cent thrift find is golden: the kids can enjoy the book, and I don't stress over any roughness or damage.

I periodically cull books. For example, neither of my kids has shown an interest in The Happy Hollister series. Now that youngest DD is past the age of enjoying those, I'll pass them on to a friend.

If you get a chance to visit Frugal Village, search for poster 'Canadian Gardener.' She writes about library visits and books in the bathroom ... and she makes sense.

In the long run, if I have to get rid of books or even replace library books we've damaged, it'll be worth it -- because my kids will be readers.

-- Jora

Sharon said...

For the past few years I have been subscribed to Scholastic....they send two hardback books a month for around $13....yes I know, kind of expensive, but I figure this collection can get past down.
I do like going to my local thrift shop and buying Readers Digest Condensed Version Books for about $.10 each. I don't like going to the book stores because I always want to buy something. I finally have convinced my husband to get his from the library, he used to buy them at the store - hardbacks.

TJ said...

Ok my house was literally over-run with children's books, but I've finally begun to get rid of some through freecycle. Most have been given to us by friend's with older children, most of the rest come from the library. I have to disagree with anonymous' view on the selection of the library. Maybe it is the libraries in her area? I've found some amazing books on the library discard cart. One was an old irish folktale which was quite good, and I never would have bought were it not so inexpensive. I've also found a Family Hymn book that I would have bought, had I had the dollar they were asking.

To contain the kids books, I actually use an old pink trunk in DD's bedroom. I just toss them all in. No worries about looks because when I close the lid, no one sees. Then I go to the trunk and mix the order of the books up monthly so that the top books are rotated. Although that isn't always necessary as my 19 month old loves nothing more than to pull every book out of the trunk or every toy out of the toy box.

What I wonder is: how do you all contain toys with lots of parts? Please visit my blog and tell me. I'm considering just getting rid of them, but I really like some of them.

Tamara said...

I attempt to purchase only hardbacks. Goodwill and consignment stores are my favorite but we also have a bookstore that sells new and used books. It is awesome! Also, Amazon is great for hardback books. I am just determined to instill a major love of reading for my children and if that involves a little more money than other things, they can just eat beans and rice for dinner ;)

Amy said...

I am big on using the library because of space reasons, but we have inherited lots of great books from my husband's childhood and really cool encyclopedia sets that I just adore.

I really don't like the paperback Scholastic books at all. My children are way too hard on their books and these don't last a week in our house :) Maybe when they get older I will enjoy these more. Until then, we will stick with our awesome library!

copperswife said...

Building a family library, to pass down to future generations, is almost a passion of mine, so I had to weigh in here. I do buy the less expensive paperbacks when that is all that is available. I also buy them used in order to increase our home library collection. However, I prefer hardbacks for their durability, beauty and ease of finding them on the shelf. I replace paperbacks with hardbacks whenever I have the opportunity.

Anonymous said...

My trick to growing the frugal family library - buying the libraries cast offs, cheap! Not only are there great titles out there, but I got my copy of the Complete Tightwad Gazette for $2. It probably helps that I work there so I get a first peek at those books getting ready to be sold. Although some books are discarded due to wear many just aren't checking out enough so we need to make space for newer ones.

Anonymous said...

We own A LOT of book and keep adding to the collection. Our solution for smaller/thinner books is to collect them in dishpans pans (ideally by subjects or by frequency of use) and put those on bookshelves. Now if that can work in your beautiful decor...

Betty Canuck said...

The only time I buy hard backs are thrift store buys.

Otherwise I always buy paperback. I am very careful with books. Plus... I'd rather take the few extra dollars and buy another book!

I've actually bought a number of e-books when I had my palm pilot. I'd set it to scroll and read and knit at the same time! I can and did like the screen.

To me there is also the concern about how much of this extra paper and such is a good thing... but then I'm a frequent library fine person because... well... my return guy isn't honest and I'll often find books tucked into his vehicle!

I love the Scholastic books for my kids. These are their fun books. They earn them. They learn to care for them and when they are done with them we "Doctor's Office" drop them. So they learn a good lesson that way.

Our school type books are better quality but often paperback. Those are kept on Mommy's shelves and not allowed to be borrowed at this point in their lives. When I know they'll care for books better then fine!

I'm really about them wanting to learn to love books. To that end, I'm a bit of an end justifying the means kind of gal!

Edi said...

If we are going on a long car trip - I try to stock up on the softcover books for as cheaply as possible...10-25 cents. Then after the trip I can donate them OR I can leave them behind.

I much prefer hardcover books for keeping though. Especially books that are classics and worth hanging onto for a long time.

We do weed out our books from time to time though - which is hard, but we have limited space. There are becoming less books at the library and new in stores that are wholesome for children (I mean ages 5-12)...I don't want cartoonish books or books that work off of off-color humor or books for girls that have the girl swooning over boys or talking about girlfriend/boyfriend stuff.

My dh and I have a conflict over even having many books in a home library - his thinking you can get them at the library. My thinking is - if the books are going to be read and re-read or you cannot generally find them in the library - you need to own them.

Also - books that the kids see laying around at home - they will be more likely to pick up, and you can choose which books you bring into your house.

Growing up I read Trixie Belden and even had a copy that belonged to my mother who read Trixie Belden. Well I've been adding a few as I find them and just recently - even though they've been in the bookcase for a year or more, my dd just spotted them and started reading them. She is so excited about the books - and today very excited when she found one at the library.

It warms the cockles of my heart to see my 8 yr old reading books I once enjoyed - and to see her excited about reading them.

Jane said...

Booksellers and teachers know that forward facing books get more looks. So most teachers use small baskets on shelves to hold the books. I get my baskets at the $ store and they hold about 10 books each or more depending. My book case can hold about two or three baskets on a shelf. When the children want to browse, they take the basket down and then return it when they are done. No more slippery slopes on the shelves either. This has preseved some paper back Scholastic cheapies for over 10 years of teaching.

Anonymous said...

I really love hardcover books, but I cannot afford to buy them new. I have to wait for yard sales or hope that I find some at our thrift stores here.
We are a paperback household. I hoard children's books, and now the six shelf bookcase in my daughter's room is jammed packed. I cannot let go.

Someone Beautiful said...

My children are close to the ages of yours. The oldest is 5. At this age, I have finally found peace with my love of having a rather large library at home for them-because they read these books over and over (some get read 20x a day or more--people have counted in awe). They LOVE books-adore them. Getting books as a gift makes them so happy (even my very active 3 yr old), and I realized we have taught them that books are enjoyable treasures. I get them used or ask for them for gifts. Now when they are much older and might read a book once or twice in years, we will probably rely more on the library and have a smaller library...maybe. That is at least what I tell myself so I have hope we won't become overrun with books. I would really like to keep all these picture books and early books for the grandchildren, but instead I believe I will pass them on to nieces and nephews and friends, keeping only the few very favorites in a "treasure box" along with a list of books to get *when we do have grandchildren*. :)

For keepers, I'd get hardbacks when you can, but I too appreciate the slim softbacks. I now rotate them face out on a little bookshelf so that they don't all get dumped out, but the rest still get dumped while they are looking for old favorites. It makes me HAPPY. :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Meredith, I homeschool like a lot of the others here. I wanted to get all hardcovers for a while, but I have found that they are actually not any more durable than the paperbacks in the hands of my children (5 under the age of 10). The covers on hardcovers don't bend, but with lots of use, they rip free from the binding and fall off completely. One way that I have found to preserve paperbacks very successfully is to immediately cover them in acid-free clear contact paper. It is a somewhat time-consuming job, especially with a lot of books, so I don't do ALL of our books, but it has really worked well to extend the life of our paperbacks, and costs very little.

Anonymous said...

We do both hardcover and paperbacks. Storage system -- we have bought more bookshelves but still need more! LOL


* Library used book sales 2x/year
* Various used book sources on the Internet
* Yard sales
* Publisher's remnants
* Some new -- when I cannot get used and have a good coupon/discount available
* There is one publisher that has been able to bring some books for our curriculum back into print, so I do buy directly from them to help support their wonderful efforts (since some of the books were going for upwards of $500(!!!) on the used market)

ITA with the earlier comment about the library selections ... sadly libraries are getting stocked with more twaddle :-( due to the demand, plus with dwindling budgets there is only so much to go around.

My goal is to develop a wonderful family library (for as inexpensively as possible) to pass along to my children. We also have books from when I was a child that I can share with my children.

Green Tea & Kimchee said...

Well, I really prefer hardcovers but I buy what I want regardless of the cover.

It may be difficult to visualize but here is what I did for flat "Scholastic" type books. I made a box frame, it fit on the back side of a bookshelf I was using as a room divider or the end side of a bookshelf. The idea would work just as a frame on the wall, though. It had small wooden dowels across it (inside it) every few inches. It looked kind of like a picture frame or a shadow box. I would drape the books over the dowel with the front side facing out. I could change the books out from time to time for variety. It was great for magazines!

Also, those hanging devices for dishtowels? I don't know what they are called, there will be several rungs on one swivel? They are cute mounted in a corner with books on them instead of towels. It's easy to use one of those with a comfortable child's chair and create a reading nook.

It's pretty easy to make a runged ladder that looks like the sliding ones in an old library. Plus it has the advantage of being portable when you are rearranging a room. Something like those "just for looks ladders" they sell at Pier One and other decor type stores that people use to hang baby blankets and so on?

I don't have pictures, I hope you can get a mental picture of what I am describing, though.