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Helping in Maria’s School


Thank you for those of you so willing to share such incredible ideas of how to build a classroom library.  I was SO glad I asked for input, I had no idea what to do, and so many had done similar things so well, we are thankful for the wisdom and are eager to get it done!

I emailed Maria’s teacher and asked for a Book List, some books that she knew her students would love to read and that she had always wanted in the classroom, her response, “Wow…sure!”

Today, I put all the titles she sent me into an amazon wish list (Which some smart reader suggested).  The books will be sent here, and taken to class, labeled with the the right AR level, and read–probably immediately 😉  I mean, right?  How exciting for these kids!  These books are fun, exciting, and just searching them on Amazon rekindled fond memories and excitement for reading.


Thank you for all your help!  We even found  new book shelf 🙂


Amy and Maria




Last year I volunteered in Maria’s classroom a handful of times–or less.  My new year’s resolution was to be in there once a week for 2014, “No prob,” I decided.

It is actually a hard commitment for me, despite the fact that Andrew works from home, and the boys take at least a couple hour nap, simultaneously, in the afternoon.

I think it’s hard for me, because for the last three years that nap time was ‘my time.’  I would go all in parenting wise, all morning, ensuring my few hours in the afternoon.  I could clean up, answer my emails, stare at a wall, whatever really–so to pack up and book it to the classroom, in my time of sweet peace, was totally not what I felt like doing, despite my resolution.

Until, I just did  it.  I still mostly feel like a toddler mom, meeting friends for playdates, story time, etc.  Fifth grade stuff I am still easing into.

“Ok,” I told Andrew resolutely, “I am leaving right now…right now, for Maria’s school…unless you don’t want me to.  Or you need something…” I faltered.

“No, it’s fine, go.  The boys will still be sleeping when you get back.”

“Ok…” as I ran to the car, before I sank into the comfort and good feelings of the beginning of nap time take over.

Let’s just say her school is not affluent?  And we love that, we do, and when I walked in, the teacher was like, “YES!” so stoked.  The kids were doing some kind of fraction thing, and I helped random kids until I sat with one girl, shy and scared, for 20 minutes, until she could really do fractions right.  Really, really got it.  On the last one before the kids left for recess, I told her I was not going to look, until she wrote the answer down all by herself with no help.

She nervously looked at the paper and worked hard, and when she was done, “WHAT!!!  What are you some kind of fractions genius, Fernanda?” I asked as she blushed.  She totally got it.  This is totally better than checking emails!  When the kids went to recess, I texted Andrew, “Remind me that I love this, Ok?”  Plus, Maria loves it.  I don’t think there will be a time that she doesn’t feel amazing that a mama would come, just because of her.

At silent reading, I started reorganizing the tiny, scrappy library.  Maria’s old bully came up, to look at the books.  “What are you looking for?” I asked.

“A book,” she responded.

I laughed to myself, so rough around the edges.  “Read this one,” I told her, handing her Number the Stars.  She gave me a look showing sassy disinterest.

“I’m serious, they try to kill her family because she is Jewish, but she is tricky…”  Her interest peeked as she read the back and took it to her desk, cracking it open.

As I relabeled all the books for Accelerated Reader, I looked at the these old, old tattered books.  The sweetest kids coming up, picking out new books as they diligently read.  Some kids are still reading picture books, the ones higher up picking a BabySitters Club book with the cover art in awesome 80’s apparel, a couple classics mixed in.

photo (20)

The kids are sweet, and hard working, but some don’t get a whole lot of support from home.  What I wish was that they could need a new bookshelf because there are so many extra books.  That there were new, fresher books for the kids to chose from.  That as they read, their language skills and reading skills grew and grew, preparing them for junior high and high school.

So, as you know, I am still new to this.  What do you recommend?  For those of you who have volunteered in the past, how have you raised money for your child’s school, for new books?  Or have you ever found people to donate some new books?

I know it’s just one classroom, but many, many kids will pass through over the years and reading is one of the best skills we can give kids.  A skill that crosses  all subjects and abilities.

We have dug through our collection and found a few great ones that line up with the online Accelerated Reader Program.

Please let me know what are some things I can do to bulk up the library in one amazing fifth grade class with one awesome teacher.  What have you done in the past that works, or what are some good ideas?


“Everyone is a reader, some just haven’t found their favorite book yet.”


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  • Kristin February 12, 2014, 8:51 am

    Goodwill and Garage Sales….you can find next-to-new books for really cheap! I try and stock up whenever I find good ones, for my kids or otherwise.

  • Emily February 12, 2014, 8:54 am

    Go to the public library & see if they have any they are getting rid of that aren’t too worn. Go to a local bookstore & see if they will donate any… It never hurts to ask! Ask people at church to go through their bookshelves.

  • Anne February 12, 2014, 9:23 am

    The teacher should sign up for the scholastic classroom program. They sell books super-cheap to parents (some $1 each) and for every book ordered the teacher get free books and materials for the classroom. They have book fliers/programs from preschool through teen and have monthly flyers that will be tailored to her age/grade. Even for a very low-income family, the books are affordable.

    • Rachel February 12, 2014, 12:44 pm

      This is great! Our school does this. Great books for $4 and the teacher has money to spend. They will even come to the school if you want to host a book sale.

      Do you know anyone who works for UPS? Just today we set out boxes collecting used denim jeans for homeless teenagers. See if your local hub might collect new and used children’s books for you.

      If you need a great fundraiser our school has a sure-fire, home run event but it is school-wide. If you want more info just let me know!

  • Shannon February 12, 2014, 9:56 am

    Check out this site, it has a lot of great ideas! http://www.readingrockets.org/article/57

  • Lisa February 12, 2014, 9:56 am

    You could ask people to purchase books through an online store like bookcloseouts, chapters or amazon and have them sent directly to the school. Even if a handful of people each sent 2 books, it would definitely beef up the collection.

  • Melissa February 12, 2014, 10:45 am

    I’ve had several teacher friends have great success building libraries through the website Donors Choose. You post your project and what you’d like to buy, and people can make donations to your project.

    Also, a lot of times families at church or in more affluent schools or even grocery stores will have a lot of gently used, high quality books laying around. You could do a book drive… people are generally happy to donate book their kids have outgrown if you explain the purpose.

    When I was teaching fifth/ fourth, I found a lot of classic chapter books at estate sales or thrift stores for 10-25 cents each. Once you get some money raised, if you don’t mind used books, these are a great place to find quality.

    • Annette Paulsen February 12, 2014, 8:29 pm

      I second the Donors Choose. I’ve donated to them in the past and it really makes me feel good. I love the thought of helping out a low-income school. Also, my son’s Catholic High School partners with the low-income public school in the neighborhood. Perhaps you could partner with a religious school and they could hold a book drive amongst their students. Annette

      • Cathleen February 15, 2014, 7:09 pm

        I third the suggestion for Donors Choose, especially if it’s a Title I school (the teacher will know if it is, if you’re not sure). Have her teacher sign up for an account and she can post project requests. I am a teacher at a Title I school in Northern California with a very high percentage of English Learners and students receiving free and reduced price school lunches, and I have had great success with Donors Choose. It will take a bit of time for the teacher to post a request, and then to complete the “thank you” process for any projects that are funded, but it’s well worth the effort.

  • goneahead February 12, 2014, 11:28 am

    Ask a few local businesses and places of worship if they will put out a box to drop off books for the school. Make a list of the kind of books you need and make sure its posted with the box. Also check with local neighborhood associations – ask if they’ll send it out to their members and put out the need on their facebook pages and Nextdoor.com. Finally, check with the police and the fire department and sheriffs department (if you have one close). They love to give back to their communities and would be happy to help.

  • Ali February 12, 2014, 12:17 pm

    I am a consultant for Usborne Books. I would be happy to chat with you about setting up a fundraiser to help get some new books for her classroom. 🙂 Please email me!

  • stephanja February 12, 2014, 1:07 pm

    I love that you are ABLE to go help in her class..they don’t allow that here at any of our schools! I would LOOOOVE to be more involved like that…and I totally think the kids need it. It means so much to a kid to have someone just come in there and love on them because so many of the teachers are spread too thin or burnt out and even the best of teachers can’t give one on one attention to 20-30 students at once. Anyways….as far as the books….it would be more tedious, but you can find them on amazon cheap. Im sure someone already posted that up there.

  • Abbie C. February 12, 2014, 1:09 pm

    Hi! I don’t have any good recommendations for new new books, but some of my favorites are old and worn, anyways. =) Of course, I was the only one reading them. Although, Goodwill you can find both old and new (go on half price day at the end of the month – the kids’ books are a quarter here in Ohio) and library sales often have books priced as low as a dime, or a little more for better quality.

  • Tiffany February 12, 2014, 3:11 pm

    A lot of my friends who are teachers have used this website to get a “grab bag” of books, if you will, for $19.99 + Shipping. You will get 100+ books age range from toddler – young adult/adult.


  • Kelly Shoup February 12, 2014, 4:29 pm

    Our local library sells books donated to them for $.25. It’s a win win because we get good books cheap AND support the local library. I really like the idea of setting up a wish list on amazon.com. I bet with your followers you could get the list filled in no time.

  • Alicia February 12, 2014, 11:15 pm

    When I first started teaching I bought a lot of books for my classroom library on eBay. You can search for book lots and can usually get them so cheap. I know that still requires money but if you find a way to raise money, that’s a good place to buy from. I recently gave all of my old teaching books away to another teacher, darn…

  • Saskia February 13, 2014, 1:53 am

    Via Facebook groups: Second hand toys/books groups.
    Often books next to new and surely newer than the books on the shelf (according to the picture)

  • Katie T February 13, 2014, 8:37 am

    Rotory Club does educational grants for teachers and classrooms. See if there is one in your area. You could do most of the leg work of applying for it for your teacher. Sometimes they give a certain amount of money for a specific project. Even a couple hundred dollars could buy enough new books.

  • Mrs. Natalie February 13, 2014, 11:39 am

    Hi Amy!
    We can’t thank you enough for your help at our little school! I know your act of kindness and your willingness to help was felt by the whole classroom. Your blog brought tears to my eyes. I love a parent who truly sees the needs of our students and still the uniqueness of our school. If you get a chance, come see me in FAMILY READING – Room #110. I might have some books and suggestions for some good reads. There are opportunities to get new books for $1 from Scholastic along with many books for free from them. (Oh, and my grandson Ethan is really finding a sweet friend in Maria!)
    Mrs. Natalie

  • Meg February 13, 2014, 12:06 pm

    I have books I would love to donate…I’d just need a name and address to ship them too!

  • Jantina Wennerstrom February 14, 2014, 6:55 am

    Perhaps you should just put a call to action on your blog and see how many books show up at your door? 🙂

  • K D February 14, 2014, 10:20 am

    I would say that used in books ingood condition might go a lot farther than new books (bang for the buck wise). I always bought books at yard sales and rummage sales. There may be a lot of organizations willing to collect used books to donate to the school – churches, civic groups (e.g. Lions Club), or Girl/Boy Scout Troops working on service projects. Or maybe a retirement community has philanthropic groups. See if you can connect with any of those groups.

    There is an organization called First Book (link: http://register.firstbook.org/?rgst=homepage) that aims to get new books to those in need, so check them out.

    I love that you are so invested in this, yet another way that you are making the world a better place.

  • Jenna Houts February 15, 2014, 10:12 am


    I built a library while I was living in Paraguay. I got most of my books donated. Their are a lot of organizations online that you submit an application and they mail you a huge shipment. The hardest part was finding books in Spanish. I think finding books in English will be much easier for you. I also had friends and family get books together for me. Also, I work at a school now where kids have to do a community service project for their bat mitzvahs and I have seen some have their guests bring a book as a donation… It is amazing how many books you can get that way. I would suggest talking to any local temples about this.

    Email if you want to chat about it! Good luck to you,


  • Rachel February 16, 2014, 1:26 pm

    Do you all have Freecycle in CA? I have a girlfriend who freecycles the egg yolks they don’t eay. I am sure you should be able to get books!

  • Bethany Tibbetts February 16, 2014, 8:11 pm

    Are you near a Scholastic Warehouse? There are 7 in CA, but since I don’t know where you live, I didn’t go any further. You can volunteer there (reshelving books, mostly) & earn $20 “Scholastic bucks” an hour. Get a team together and really earn a bunch of bucks! And used library book sales!

  • Caitlyn February 17, 2014, 8:09 am

    I am a huge Pinterest fanatic, and I found this link a little while ago: http://www.booksbythefoot.com/shop/pc/Boxed-Children-s-Books-17p148.htm Hopefully it will help get some new books for Maria’s class. As it says, it’s a “grab bag” of various ages, so if not all the books work for class, hopefully there are some you can use with your little ones at home. (PS- I just discovered you and your family this morning, and I have fallen in love with your story. It has been just over two years since my family brought home my sister from the Ukraine, so I understand the wonderful power adoption has on changing a person’s life. I wish you and your family the best in everything you do!)

  • Jane February 17, 2014, 10:08 pm

    Another way to do this is to ask around your church’s high school group and ask if anyone needs to do an Eagle Scout or Gold Star project for scouts. That age group is often willing to get rid of good books they have outgrown and it allows them to show love the younger kids and learn to organize, plan and do most of the work. You don’t need to do this all on your own.

  • Colleen February 18, 2014, 3:28 pm

    Amy, when checking out of amazon its asking for the address- can you let me know how to do this so it directly sends the books to where it needs to go?

    • tinyteam February 18, 2014, 3:31 pm

      Oh darn, I’ll try to fix it! Thanks for telling me!

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