Laura, a beginning teacher, writes:

“I would love to use some of your books and start some FVR, How do I do that if the school doesn’t have extra money to buy books for FVR and books to read together?”

Good question, and one that I get asked a lot. There is more than one way to skin a cat, as they say. You just need some models. Well, here are a few. I personally know teachers that have done these fund-raising ideas. I have done the ones in red print below for my own classroom. Here are…

Ways to Finance Your Classroom Library

MAYBE YOU CAN’T DO ALL OF THESE, BUT YOU CAN DO SOME OF THEM.

  • Ask. Just ask. It is often the case that you have not because you ask not. Ask.
  • Do a fund raiser. Have your school World Language Club sell something or do a car wash to get money to buy books.
  • Ask your school Honor Society to help buy books for your program.
  • Restructure your program’s annual budget to include funds for regular classroom library expansion.
  • Do a community-wide fund-raiser. Dustin Lee, of Pine Bluffs, Wyoming (population 1,200), did this and raised $88,000 in fall 2022. Some of it was for his girls basketball team, some for a Disc Golf course, but some went to his Spanish classroom library.
  • Ask your school librarian to buy target language titles. Put them on a cart and wheel them down to your classroom.
  • Ask your local public library to buy target language titles. In many public libraries teachers can check out 50 books at a time for up to 6 weeks.
  • Ask your librarian about interlibrary loans – that’s probably the cheapest way, but it depends on being part of  of a large enough district to have a lot of libraries with a few copies here and there. (Thanks to Joanne Glasgow.)
  • Ask your librarian for creative ways to afford books. they are experts at stretching a buck. (Thanks to Joanne Glasgow again)
  • Ask to get discarded target language books from your local public library.
  • Contact other schools in your district to see what’s in their bookrooms and if they would be willing to share. (Thanks to Joanne Glasgow again)
  • Appeal to administrators in your district, particularly if you work in a Title 1 school or have a large ELL/ML or SpEd population. (Thanks to Joanne Glasgow again)
  • Go to a Friends of the Library used book sale and stock up. There are two such sales in our town every year. Thousands of books are donated by community members and hundreds of thousands of dollars are made for the public library. There are always world language titles in the mix. If there is not a sale like this in your community, start one.
  • Ask an embassy. There are embassies of countries that speak your target language that would be happy to send you books. Mexico is particularly good at this.
  • Search for target language books at Goodwill or other thrift stores.
  • Ask organizations like Go Fund Me, Donors Choose, Give Send Go, Adopt a Classroom, etc.
  • Put out a request on social media – there are retiring teachers with classroom libraries who would love to donate to enthusiastic teachers that will use books in their classrooms.
  • Ask parents to donate money. Back-to-School night is a good time to do this. This can be intimidating, but do it anyway. Not every parent can or should donate, but some want to give donations to a worthy cause. Some have the means to do so. I have always had donations when I asked parents for money for books. Sometimes it’s one family, sometimes it’s multiple families. Sometimes it’s $10, sometimes $500. If it is for a good cause and for their own children, people will donate. All you have to do is make the case and ask.
  • Ask families to donate target language books they have outgrown or no longer use.
  • Ask your school’s PTA for funds.
  • Ask a local service organization for money to buy books for your classroom. Those groups often have money to give, but don’t know where to give it. They’re waiting to give you money. They want to give you money. Are you going to accept it?
  • Write a grant. There are plenty of charitable organizations that exist to give teachers money.
  • Make a deal with your administrator: Vocabulary-controlled readers instead of textbooks. Because… They’re cheaper. They’re more effective. They’re self-differentiating. They can engage a greater variety of students. They’re easier to update.
  • Charge a class fee. Obviously not everyone is allowed to do this, but you won’t know unless you ask. They charge a fee for materials in art, shop class, home economics, and other classes in many schools. Why not World Language?
  • Find or create your own Weekly Reader-type program where students can buy books — and then donate them to the school / World Language program / your classroom when they’re done reading.
  • Have upper-level students create books for lower-level students. See this template for student-made books. If you haven’t done this it is a great project for the blah times in February and March, or as an end-of-the-year project.
  • Use the educational discount at every area bookstore in your area.
  • Look on Half Price Books, Thrift Books, or other such websites. (Thanks to Joanne Glasgow again)
  • Buy them yourself.
  • Disadvantage: Cost to you.
  • Advantages: You have control. You choose the titles. Faster delivery. No bureaucratic red tape or paperwork. You can take those books with you or donate them when you move on to another school or when you retire.

Please comment and add other ideas that have worked for you.