1. Imagination Library
Dolly Parton's Imagination Library mails free books to kids aged 0-5. Click to see if your neighborhood is registered and sign up each child in your family to receive one free book a month! If your neighborhood is not registered, you can apply.
2. Free books online
Gizmo’s Freeware lists 200 (yes, 200!) different websites where you can read books online for free or download free e-books. Each site is listed individually with a link and a description of the types of books offered, whether the books can be read online only or downloaded, and other facts (like if you can sort by age, etc.). My personal favorites are WeGiveBooks and Children's Library. Reading books online through WeGiveBooks helps distribute books worldwide to kids in need. Children's Library contains over 4,600 books, many of them classics that you will enjoy as much as your child.
3. Reading programs
Several companies offer free books or prizes after children read a specific number of books or all of the books on a list, depending on the program. For example, Barnes and Nobles offers a free book after a child reads eight books, while TD Bank offers $10 after a child reads 10 books. Some of the programs are offered throughout the year while a few programs are only offered for the summer. Click here for a list of nine of the most popular national programs.
4. Local libraries
Some local libraries have a donation center where families leave books they have outgrown, and you can pick them up for free. Other libraries sell excess books once or twice a year. I have found that if the sale lasts more than one day, the library reduces the prices on the final day of the sale, giving away many books for free. I once scored 50 books for $3—that's only 6 cents a book! Check with your local library to see if they have a donation center or when their next sale is scheduled.
5. Book exchanges
A book exchange allows you to trade books with another person or family—you give a book your family has outgrown and you get a new-to-you book in return! Search Craigslist or the local paper for book exchanges in your area, or organize one in your neighborhood or school. There are also online book exchanges where you only pay the cost of postage. Check out this site for a list of online exchange programs.
6. Book swapping
Book swapping sites work similarly to book exchange sites, with a slight difference. After you create an account, you list the books you own that you are willing to send to someone else. When your book is requested, you mail it at your cost. Then you can request a book from anyone else on the site for free. Depending on the site, you get about two books for every book you send. Check out BookMooch, which is the biggest U.S. book-swapping site.
7. PJ Library
PJ Library is an organization that sends free children's books and music to Jewish (and interfaith) children on a monthly basis. Depending on the community, children ages 6 months to 8 years of age can participate. Click here to connect with the PJ Library in your community. If your community is not listed, you can request sponsorship through the website.
8. Book banks
If you are lucky enough to live in one of the following neighborhoods, you can get free books from a book bank. Book banks are similar to a large, city-wide book exchange. Families, organizations and libraries donate books, and others can stop by and pick them up to own. Please click on the corresponding website to see any book bank guidelines.
- Baltimore Reads Book Bank
- Philadelphia Reads Book Bank
- Bernie’s Book Bank (Chicago)
- The Children’s Book Bank (Portland)
- The Children’s Book Project (San Francisco)
This is a guest post by Cosima
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