Books are huge in our classroom.

We have a very happy classroom library. We recommend books to each other, have book “commercials” during the occasional 5-minute free block, and often leave books each others’ seats.

Nothing, though, generates as much interest in books as our weekly book raffle.

It falls on Friday after our recess/lunch/Quiet Time block. It’s a low-maintenance system and I typically raffle off three to four books per week. Here’s the current stash in my closet, which is significantly down since September.

 

And here are this week’s books.

Am I robbing banks to pull this off? No. What I DO have is the well-developed eye of a bargain-hunter. I grew up with a yard-sale fanatic for a father, so my heart goes plinkity-bump when I see those magical words on a sign. Likewise, I’m good at sniffing out deals in stores. Here are my rules, though, to finding books kids are going to actually want.

  • They must be in perfect shape. No yellowing, no writing inside, no dog-eared pages.
  • They must look current. Outdated illustrations will not do.
  • They must pass the smell test. (I learned this the hard way. I thought I found a perfect copy of The One and Only Ivan, only to discover later that it reeked of cigars.)
  • They must be relevant to kids’ interests. Diary of a Minecraft Zombie? Not my thing. But you better believe the kids trip over each other trying to enter for popular titles like these.
  • Have a wide array of books. Non-fiction, fiction, graphic novels, board books and picture books (kids love to win books as gifts for younger siblings/cousins), sports, etc. Figure out what they like and cater to it.
  • The most I will pay is $1.50. And that’s pretty rare.

Thrift Stores

I began my quest at a chain thrift store called Savers.  I haven’t gone in ages, but I used to frequent two or three. (They have good turnover, so the selection changes almost weekly.) A couple of years ago, kids’ books sold for 6 for $5, though they’ve raised their prices a wee bit. They also have sales when books are further discounted. Ask ahead for their sale dates and load up then! I just heard too that some stores have a teacher discount, so that’s worth investigating at your local store. I’ve stocked much of my library with books from Savers, and often grab duplicates for the raffle. I’ve found brand new sticker books, new hardcover releases, stunning pop-up books, and gorgeous collector’s editions of classics. There is a plethora of Diary of a Wimpy Kid books, which go like hotcakes in the raffle. (Incidentally, Savers has a good games section too.  I got a Harry Potter game there that is, by far, one of the most coveted items during indoor recess.) There is a lot of garbage too, but that makes finding the treasure even more fun!

I’ve gotten a few books at the Goodwill/Salvation Army stores, but the selection is nowhere near as good as Savers, so I rarely check. (Plus the books tend to smell funny.)

Yard Sales

If yard sales are your thing, you can do very well! You can wing it, as I often do, by just stopping by yard sales while you do Saturday morning errands. Or you can plan ahead by scouting upcoming yard sales on Craigslist. If I see toys at a yard sale, I’ll stop to see if they have kids’ books. Seven times out of ten, if there are books, they’re not in great shape so I pass. Sometimes, though, I strike gold. Last summer, I scored a tall pile of brand-new-spine-not-even-cracked Weird School and Who Was books for $0.25 a piece.

Library Sales

Check with your local library. They’ll usually have an ongoing book sale and often will hold several larger book sales throughout the year. You can do VERY well at these. And don’t just limit yourself to your town. There’s a town about half an hour from my house that has an annual sale to beat the band. (And it’s a well-to-do town, so there are many generous donations!) You can get bags and bags of books. I just stopped by the library around my corner on my way home this afternoon and scored these two. (The kids’ books are $1 for hardcover, paperpacks 2/$1, adult books $2.) Ask your local libraries when their sales are and mark them on your calendar. (And bring cloth bags. You’ll need them.)

Scholastic Book Club

This is my main source of raffle books these days. I do a HUGE push in September for the Scholastic Book Club. Last year, if one’s class spent over $300 by September 30, you received 10,000 points. 10,000 points buys you a LOT of books, my friends. During that month, I send out reminder emails to families, have kids write the due date in their planner calendars, and I talk about it at Back to School night, explaining what we do with the earned points. I promise parents that September is the only month I’ll be annoying about the book club and I keep that promise. 🙂 After we win the points — and we almost always do — I spend the points on a HUGE order of books. Once it arrives, I  take a picture of the spread of books to send to parents so that they see first-hand what their purchases got us. They love that kind of feedback and get equally excited! (If you’re not signed up with the Scholastic Book Club yet, find a deserving someone in your building who is already a member — ideally a mentor, if you are a beginning teacher —  and they can earn points for referring you. It’s all about the karma, baby.)

These are SOME of the books we got with our 10,000 points. (I have to buy new Harry Potters every year because they get read to death and eventually fall apart.)

Raffle Tickets

Now you’ve got a stash of books to get the ball rolling. Congratulations! You’re ready to start!

In our room, students earn Effort Dots —  inspired by this video from Teacher Tipster; more on this later in the week — which can be spent on raffle tickets. The card setup is fairly simple. Students stick their Effort Dot onto the raffle ticket and add their name, the book title, and author’s name. Here’s what our lovely Golden Tickets look like.

Each book has its own little home and tin for collecting raffle tickets. (Bins from Lakeshore Learning; Tins were from Target.) Students can enter throughout the week but mainly do it during Morning Work, Quiet Time (after lunch), indoor recess, or right after dismissal. You can download your own free set of raffle tickets here in my Teachers Pay Teachers store. Just print, copy, and cut. (Or give them to a student who needs to practice his/her cutting skills.)

In our room, we have many students who rush their work and get sloppy, so one of the rules of our raffle is that if you spell anything wrong on the ticket or if it’s illegible, it’s disqualified. {insert evil laughter} It works.

Raffle

At the close of Quiet Time, we begin the raffle. I do a lot of prepping at the beginning of the year on good sportsmanship, keeping everyone’s feelings foremost in our minds, etc. Once we talk about it, they’re really good about being kind to each other. I’ve even had a few kids win a book and then gift it to the other kid who entered. THAT, my friends, ends the week on a blissful note. Last year, I was slowly raffling off the Harry Potter series, book by book. I don’t know how it started, but everyone who won gave their HP book to one particular student, who desperately wanted the whole series. I’ve never seen anything like it. The winner would walk over to C. and hand him their hard-earned book, and the whole class would laugh and clap mischievously as I sputtered, “What are you all UP to?” By June, C. had the entire series.

When we do the raffle, I’ll usually turn it into a fraction/probability moment. Sometimes, the kids will have whiteboards and will hold up their answers to my questions. So, for example, if there are 9 entries for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, and Max has two entries, I’ll ask them, “What fraction of the raffle tickets belong to Max?” {2/9} Other probing questions:

  • It is certain he will win?
  • Is it likely he will win?
  • Is it impossible for him to win?
  • Who is more likely to win?

You can go off in many tangents. Percentages. Equivalent fractions. Additive comparisons. (How many more chances does Max have than Ariana?) Majority. Maximum. Minimum. You get the point.

Introducing New Books

After our last book has been raffled off, I’ll introduce next week’s books, which is almost as exciting as the raffle itself. Sometimes I’ll read the first sentence/page of each book to increase their interest, either right then or in the days leading up to the next raffle. I’ll point out parts of the books that will pique their interest: endpapers, title pages, dedications, book blurbs on the back, illustrators, other works by that author. You gotta sell it.

Occasionally, I will put a book in the raffle that becomes a dud. I think it’s terrific, I’ve tried selling it to them, but nobody bites. That book just goes back into the closet for next year. (Tastes change from year to year.)

Non-Book Items

Occasionally, I’ll throw in items that are not books. Bubbles were on sale this fall in Target, so I bought a couple of them. Crayons are SUPER cheap there in late summer, so I’ll stock up on them and other art supplies. Notebooks, Target dollar deals, sidewalk chalk, etc. Things that cost a quarter or so get thrown in my prize bag:

One surprising winner is something we entered out of desperation: bubblewrap. Yep. We were running low on books, so the bubblewrap that wrapped some items in an Amazon package went in as a last-minute prize. And was it popular! You’d have thought it was a barrel of candy for how much everyone wanted it. Now I always have a stash of bubblewrap waiting in the prize bag. (The caveat is that they may not pop it until they leave the building after dismissal. Otherwise I take it back.)

A Tradition for Years to Come!

The book raffle is one of the students’ favorite memories of our classroom. Each year, past students return to visit, often literally looking down on me, and ask shyly in their startlingly deeper voices, “Do you still do the book raffle?” When they learn that it’s still in full swing, their faces light up and they look like their third/fourth-grade selves again. Never underestimate the power of books.

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Again, if you’d like to try this in your own classroom, go to my TPT store, where you can download the tickets for free! Try it, and watch your book community flourish.