Buying Vs. Borrowing Children's Books

Updated on July 17, 2017
N.Z. asks from Los Angeles, CA
17 answers

I posted a question yesterday regarding children's books, which made me wonder what others do -- borrow or buy books for their children. (Thank you all for your recommendations, btw! Can't wait to read some of those books to my daughter.) If you generally borrow, but sometimes buy, which books do you choose to buy rather than borrow?

I have personally taken my kids to the library only a handful of times. I generally take them to the bookstore for story time and browse books. We occasionally buy books for the kids from the store, but mostly purchase books on Amazon.

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answers from San Francisco on

This past school year (2nd grade) we have mostly done neither, as DD's teacher had each student go "book shopping" for take-home books from the classroom stash. She brought home a new assortment every two weeks. So she was well stocked with reading material.

She inherited a lot of books from her older brothers when they outgrew them, she gets books as gifts, we go to the library frequently. Sometimes she will get gift cards for bookstores as gifts. We have a Little Free Library at DD's school, and we always browse there. Most of the books we have bought lately have been through Scholastic book orders (which I really can't stand, but that is a whole other story).

We tend to buy books when we're collecting a series. For example, right now she's enjoying the Dr KittyCat books, and we have been buying them as they've come out.

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answers from San Francisco on

When my kids were little we went to the library a few times a month. This is how I learned what books they liked. When they had discovered favorite stories or series I bought them at bookstores (new and used) or at Target, and online. We also ordered books through the Scholastic book orders at school and the book fairs that the school library had twice a year.
I'm 49 years old and I STILL go to the library! Especially if my book club is reading a book I don't think I'll necessarily want to buy. I have a kindle and read some books that way, the rest I get from Amazon, or my favorite new/used store, Half Price Books.

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answers from Kansas City on

Both for sure. But we get TONS of books from the library. I feel like between the ages of 0-6 you pretty much read the same books over and over (and over) again and that's good, that's how it's supposed to be. To be honest, I'm not super picky about the ones I buy vs the ones I borrow. If there is a particular series we were very fond of, like the Give a Mouse a Cookie series, then I will automatically buy a new one in the series. Other than that I would pretty much let my kids pick books they liked, but I always had classics like Amelia Bedelia, Berenstain Bears, Clifford, etc. around. I did try and limit the character books based on tv and movies, but of course we had some of those too. Thrift stores are great places to buy cheap books!

I feel like the library is most helpful for when the kids start reading chapter books. You have access to so many different books and these aren't typically books that kids will read over and over again. I still buy chapter books too, but mostly we get them from the library. We get picture books too and sometimes it's nice to have a new one to add to the mix instead of the same old ones you've already read 1,523 times this week. Plus the library kids' sections usually have hands-on things they can do or play with and my kids love wandering through the stacks. They also always have story times and different activities, especially in the summer. PLEASE utilize your library more, because many of them are being considered for shut-down and I feel that real books are too valuable for young readers to be discarded!

My kids' teachers used to send home Scholastic book orders every month too and we would always order at least 1 from each order. They are very reasonably priced and support the classroom library too.

I'm a total sucker for books though. My kids totally have my number. They can ask for toys and candy all day long at the store and I'll say no, but if they bring me a book (or 3) it always seems to make it into the cart!

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answers from Boston on

Both. We bought certain ones (Dr. Suess and other classics, potty books, what's-happening-to-my-body books, and things we thought would be read a lot over the years). We borrowed from the library a lot. We also bought a lot of used books from Friends of the Library, yard sales and so on.

Our community has a book exchange where you can drop off what you want to trade and take home (to borrow or keep) what you like.

I cannot imagine NOT taking my kid to the library. They need to see the wide range of things available, either by looking at what's on display (new books, seasonal favorites), or by looking up a subject of interest and then browsing in that section of the library. It's vital to teach them that not everything needs to be bought on impulse, and that things are meant to be shared.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

In preschool, we bought, and never from Amazon. IMO, little ones need to physically flip pages and browse around and look for the books that they want in a library or bookstore. And they like to read the same books again and again. We frequently went to Half Price Books, because I could just let them go and pick out whatever they wanted and spend very little $.

But now my kids are avid readers (yay!) and there is no way to have enough bookshelf space to buy books. Not only do we borrow, we got them kindle readers (not the Fire, which is an internet browser, just a plain kindle reader) and I borrow all their books from the library and download them onto their kindles.

You can pick up an old kindle reader on sites like Craigslist for $40 or so.

I wouldn't recommend this to you for a few more years, but when your daughter really starts reading on her own, it's great.

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answers from Portland on

Once mine started school (and actually though their daycare/preschools now that I think of it) there were these fundraiser type book purchasing programs that we often bought books through. It was fun for our kids and helped support the school. So often when they had a series they liked (Captain Underpants or Thea Stilton, etc.) they would get the next one through that special they had at the school.

Over the years we have ended up with series purchased. So my son has all the Harry Potter. We have all the Geronimo Stiltons (or a good chunck of them). We have purchased the classics. Not a crazy amount, but my kids will re-read or hand those ones down so I didn't mind.

I find an excellent place to get books is at a thrift store. We have a huge wharehouse type one near us that has a huge book section. So all those Judy Moody books, and Rainbow Fairies ones are there - for fun my kids can get one each visit.

My kids always got 1-2 books through the school library - and we do go to our regular library from time to time.

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answers from Norfolk on

If they like to read them over and over again - it's worth it to own the books.
Buy used when you can.
We love what we find through Alibris - you can buy new and/or used there.
Our son likes to read some older series that aren't in book stores anymore and libraries never have enough sci-fi for him.
Buying used books saves a lot of money and makes his book budget last a lot longer than it otherwise would.

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answers from Portland on

I buy things I know will likely be read repeatedly, favorites, and reference/homeschool resources that we want to keep (example: D'Aulaires Greek Mythology or book we might use for unit studies where we will likely need it for longer than the library will allow.)

Otherwise, the library is our go-to. We go once a week. In your situation, I'd recommend putting books you want on hold at your library/checking them out, and then see what your daughter's response to the book is. If it's something you both enjoy reading repeatedly, or a keepsake book (like the Little House books, where you will want to build a collection over time), then go ahead and make a purchase.

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answers from Rochester on

I am a book addict. My kids are book addicts. I'm an elementary reading teacher. I'm on two different children's book award committees. I have publishers sending me boxes of free books to consider for the one award. I'm always buying books and often we have 25-50 books checked out of the public and school libraries. Then we also have e-books. Admittedly, I buy way too many books for me and my kids. My husband, who is not much of a reader, also buys our kids lots of books.

We have favorite authors and book series that we always buy. We have favorite topics we will buy books about. Often books we check out of the library we then turn around and buy. When we travel we often buy books for souvenirs. It's out of control. I recently sold close to 200 books at a garage sale (basically gave them away). We still have hundreds of books in our house!

Books have always been an important part of my life. I'd rather spend money on books than on toys for my kids. As a reading teacher I've seen several pieces of research that have shown that easy access to books is one of the things that will contribute to success in learning how to read. You don't need to have hundreds of books, but if you can slowly build up a library of 100 books (and those 100 books will change as you child gets older) and rotate a supply of library books in and out on a regular basis that will be a huge benefit.

You don't need to buy new books. We have gotten a lot at garage sales, used book stores, little lending libraries around our neighborhood, and places like Goodwill. I rarely order kids' books online unless I'm confident of the quality and challenges content. There are some poor quality (in my opinion) books on the market.

If I didn't have the money or the space for books I'd be a lot more selective in what I bought. I'd only buy books that we absolutely loved and would want to read over and over. That's why I love the library. We can check out books that might be good and return them never to see if they are bad. Or we can check them out over and over. Or we can buy the books we've really loved.

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answers from Chicago on

We do both. They get to pick a couple of books from the Scholastic Book Fair when they have them as school a couple of times a year. I will buy a book if I think it was be read repeatedly. I like to browse the books for sale at the library. And I have taken my kids to the library to get a couple of books. Unfortunately, reading times at the library are during the week so we never get to go to those though I have always wanted to. Once the Borders Books closed, we don't really have a bookstore within a short drive of home so buying books lately has been limited to the school fairs.

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answers from Chicago on

We do both. I buy a lot of books, and we go to 2 libraries a week, so we borrow a lot too. We homeschool and we read a lot. We have no curriculum, just lots of books. To be fair, I buy myself a few books a week too. I also check things out of the library, but I tend to like to really dig into books, use them and consume them, so to say, and I never feel like I can do this with library books or kindle books. I'm an ex-academic, so we have books all over the house, plus tons in boxes in storage that will come out once we have the space (my old library in the house is a kid's room now, and a few shelves in our office are now lego storage shelves). I love libraries and I love home libraries too!

I am a big believer in having a home library:
1. it shows that you truly value them
2. it fosters a love of books. Two examples: my oldest spends a few hours a day reading. She has done this since she was 12 months old. When she was a baby and could sit up, she'd sit near her book basket and just look through them. She even ripped them apart (consumed them). You can't do this with library books! And the ones she destroyed tended to be ones with mechanical parts that she was trying to figure out how they worked! Then for her 5th birthday, I spent $500 on usborne books. I have this picture of her sitting in our living room with this giant grin --better than xmas she said.
3. By having books you can read over and over again, kids pick up on words and learn to read. You have to have access to books to learn to read them.
4. By having a library, you have a wealth of knowledge at your figure tips that is more thoughtful than most stuff on the internet. For instance, I have this weird book on the history of the alphabet. Recently my 7 year old asked me about where the alphabet came from, so over lunch we read it. My 4 year old is being a typical preschool with lots of questions. I have a large library of science books for the 5-7 crowd. Wanna know about bears --right this minute- OK, here's a book on them. We spend a lot of time watching videos and playing video games, so I love that we can be old fashion with researching questions.

Not all books are worthy of being bought. I tend to buy books that are award winners or of interest to my kids' passions. We must have 30 books on castles and the middle ages --the library doesn't have many of these. Some books are so good you want to read them hundreds of times (a visitor for bear has been read a few hundred times in this house). Those are the books I buy. Then I buy books that are pretty and might only be read once( a cool map book, or a cool book on molecules). These are coffee table books that will get flipped through over and over again, but maybe only once a year. But they are worth having because they are just beautiful and full of interesting things. Books like that I buy new. But if I can get a good copy used, that's usually what I buy for the kids' normal literature.

I also pay for the kindle unlimited for my 9 year old and we all have magazine subscriptions too! My oldest gets 5 different magazines, hubby and I get 3, and the younger two share 2.

So yes, we buy -- a lot. But we also borrow --a lot (30-50 every other week).

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answers from Wausau on

Both. I made a lot more purchases when they were little. I loves Scholastic book order fliers when I was a kid, and so I ordered from them when my kids were in elementary too.

As they grew older then library trips became more frequent. They can power through novels and series in no time. Purchases of new books are more selective and also involve more non-fiction than before. We love the local secondhand book store here too. We have several overcrowded bookcases in our house already, and stacks of books on the floor that don't fit. They also have Kindle Fire tablets, but only rarely use them for reading. Personal preferences I suppose.

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answers from Abilene on

My go to book purchase is If you purchase more than one book from a seller, the shipping price is substantially discounted. We homeschool and travel a lot so the library isn't a great option. When we're done with the books I will donate to the library or hand down to younger kids for them to pass on as well. I know the digital age is great, but I LOVE the feel of a book in my hands. Old school I know...☺️

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answers from Springfield on

when we lived in city limits we had a library card and we borrowed books weekly. now that were out of the city and a library card would cost money that we cant afford we just buy a book here and there and we use christmas and birthdays to get more books that suit the childs reading abilities

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answers from Fort Myers on

I have a store by me called once upon a child. They buy peoples kids stuff. You can get books for a great price there. Try goodwill. There's nothing wrong with getting used books. Wipe them down and you are good to go.

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answers from Washington DC on

The local public library can be your best friend. Take your kids a lot, so that they see it as a positive, fun place! Take them to story times and activities at the library as well as at the bookstore -- In our area, there are many public libraries (large library system) and the various locations, none very far away, host a LOT of things for kids: Story times, crafts geared to their age groups, games, movies, card game groups, readiing groups for older kids, visits from authors, pajama parties, much more. Get online with your library system and see what's out there.

If you get them used to the idea of borrowing books from a library, then when they are older and have full access to a school library, they will be much more interested in and eager about seeing all the school library has to offer them.

We buy books when the price is right or when we know DD (now a teen) is going to read and re-read and re-read again. There are some series like that, for her, back then when she was young and now as a teen. But the ability to borrow books also gives your kids the ability to taste and try new things, even if those new types of books don't turn out to be favorites.

There are also heaps of books available second-hand at many thrift shops, often including copies of popular books in excellent shape. If it weren't for thrift shops and libraries we'd spend way too much on books -- and we do still buy books via Amazon and at the bookstore. But I really have to recommend teaching your kids to think the library is a huge and frequent treat!

When they're in elementary (or now, if they already are), get to know the school librarian yourself. Volunteer to shelve books or otherwise help the librarian during the day while the kids are in school. Our elementary librarian had a roster and parents could sign up to shelve books, sort and label new books, pull books to fill teacher requests, etc. It helped the school and it really, really taught me a ton about kids' books and what's out there that you might never hear about if you just look on Amazon and at bookstores!

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answers from Columbus on

We do both. If there's a book that he really likes or that I think will be beneficial to have for more than a few years I buy it. And I always buy books from the Scholastic book fairs at school. Once he learned to read, I stopped buying as many books and started borrowing them instead. Simply because he was going through so many books I would have gone broke buying them.

My son loves the library. Most of the libraries around us are completely different from the library that I grew up around. Not only is the 'no noise' rule pretty much gone, but there's also a huge variety of other things there. Ours has educational type toys (puppets, blocks, puzzles, board games, etc.) that they can play with there, and we can even check out board games. It's interesting because the children's section of the library looks a lot like the kindergarten classrooms did when I was younger. But now kindergarten classrooms really don't have many toys, so going to the library brings back good memories for me.

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