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5 Easy, Proven Ways You Can Get More Books at Home Right Now

Right now I've got all four of my kids learning from home. We've opted for remote learning through their usual schools. For my middle schooler, Benjamin, this means working independently to complete 2 assignments per week in each of his 7 classes. He logs on twice a week for a video chat with an eighth, advisory class. My elementary schoolers, Levi and Jubilee, are logging on for short lessons from their teachers 4-5 times a day, and doing some independent work in between. My preschooler, Sam, is enjoying a bag of books and craft supplies that the leader of our city's School Readiness initiative offers for pick up every month or so.  

We're spending a lot of time at home. So, how can we get more books at home right now?


1. Library holds- If your library is open at all, the librarians are just wishing and hoping for your patronage. Our library is open with limited hours and with restrictions (no restroom access, mandatory masks, traffic stickers on the floor) and our librarians are thrilled to see us when we come in. If coming in isn't an option for people, they're offering a curbside pickup. When I get to the library I call and they will bring my checked out books to my car. I highly recommend looking into your local library as an option. My library is keeping all books returned to them in quarantine - untouched for 3 days. They've also ceased charging any fines. Look into what your library is doing. 

I definitely use library holds to get more books. Every so often, maybe once a week, I log on to my library's catalog and put books on hold that my kids want. I look up the books we want in the catalog and click to place a hold. Whether the book is coming from my home library or from another library in the system, I know it's coming. Then, when I go to the library, I browse for whatever looks good. The librarians put a lot of work into making books look good, letting you see the book covers, etc. So I grab what sparks some interest, and then at the checkout desk, I pick up my holds. 

I definitely end up getting more books with the help of holds. Sometimes I go expressly for picking up holds, but often I visit the library to browse and find I have holds that have come in. Putting books on hold eliminates the effort of remembering what book it was we wanted, and the effort of finding the book on the shelf. 

And hey, here's a cool tool -- the catalog of library catalogs -- called WorldCat. Find out what libraries near you have any given book in their catalog. 


2. Book Subscriptions- I've looked into several book subscription boxes, but so far I've stuck with my first love, Bookroo. It's great. They send you two books, wrapped as gifts. A small paper comes with them to tell parents the titles and summaries of the books. For the chapter book box, the card notes anything a parent might want to watch for -- tense scenes, usually. 

I like that the books come as a surprise. I like that I don't have to choose whether or not I want this book or that book, it's just "set and forget." They're vetted books, and I've liked all of the ones we've received in the picture book and chapter book boxes. There have been a couple of board books that I felt meh about, but a couple that have become absolute staples in our house. So, I'm hot and cold about the board book box, and very warm and loving toward the picture book and chapter book boxes. I've written more about Bookroo, I like them well enough that I've become an affiliate. You can see my other posts about Bookroo here


I like that Bookroo is a small business started by three book-loving sisters-in-law. So relatable. Subscribing right now seems like a great way to enjoy some books and support a small business. We gifted my 2nd grader, Jubilee, a 3-month Chapter Book Box subscription for her birthday. 



3. Digital libraries- I've tried two digital libraries recently, Kindle Unlimited and Epic. 

Kindle Unlimited left me feeling meh. That may be because I wanted it for the kids mostly, and it wasn't until after my free month trial ended that my 7th grader won a free Kindle from the library summer reading program. I found it somewhat difficult to browse, and any title I searched for wasn't on it, but the Amazon page to buy it would come up. Using it felt more like browsing Amazon than visiting a digital library. Perhaps if you have a Kindle for your kids, it will suit your family better.

Epic is the digital library that the kids' schools signed up with when distance learning started last March. The kids found plenty to read on it, enough that I had to decide to what degree reading books on Epic counted as "screen time." Jubilee read a lot of Snoopy and Charlie Brown in the spring, and is currently reading the Phoebe and her Unicorn series. She was disappointed Epic didn't have the first Harry Potter book; our copy is missing at the moment. Levi has also found plenty to read for fun (Cat Ninja!) and completed reading assigned by his teacher on Epic as well. From my parent screen I can see that my kids have read over 100 hours and more than 150 books on Epic, already. I confess, I don't completely understand how the platform works for parents whose schools don't subscribe, but I know any parent can sign up for a free trial.     


4. Local bookstores- We've got Books-A-Million nearby; they're a chain bookstore and man am I glad they are around! If you've got a local bookstore, support it! Get their membership. Books-A-Million has a "millionaire's card" and at $25/year it gives me free shipping and 10% off everything, as well as access to some special sales. It hits the sweet spot for me because it's the closest to my house AND it's easy to order online AND it appeals to my frugal side with its sales and membership benefits.

 A little bit further away we've got a local independent book store, Bank Square Books. Talk about charming! The place is everything I want a bookstore to be: full of books, also cute stuff, knowledgeable staff, and places to sit. Well, I haven't been in 2020, so I can't say whether or not the places to sit have disappeared. But the thing I love about local independent bookstores is they're most likely to host awesome author events and bring authors and speakers to town and to the schools (and to virtual settings, too). In my experience, you'll end up paying sticker price (or close to it) for the books you buy at a non-chain bookstore, but when you do, you're sprinkling literacy benefits into the whole community.  


5. Online bookstores- I mean, when I say "easy and proven," even a local shopper like me has to admit that Amazon belongs on the list. The online bookstore that turned into an online "everything" store has made it SO easy to buy books. I regularly use Amazon for its detailed book information features. Reading levels, page counts, publication dates, all in one easy space! If you're on Amazon and you're ordering something anyway, you can run a quick search for the best deals. Type "children's books" or "YA books" in the search bar, then when the results come up, click the box on the left hand side for "Today's Deals." Then sort by Price: Low to High.  

Books-A-Million also sells online, and they seem to have more variety in kids' books on sale (maybe because they stock physical stores). I shall make getting to their online bargain bin easy for you: First, go to the website. Then click on Bargain Books (it's a dropdown menu, but just click it, don't pay any attention to the dropping down. Also, don't be distracted by Sale. You want Bargain Books). Then scroll down to the third row and along the top of the row click the tiny link "Shop All Kids Books Starting at $3.97". Enjoy scrolling the deals! 

Happy reading! And hey, how does school look for you right now?

27 Books for a 12 Year Old Girl Who Reads Like Crazy


Last Christmas, my good friend Nancy called me up asking for my advice on a book subscription box for her granddaughter. This granddaughter is a precocious reader with an insatiable appetite for books

I told her that I love Bookroo, but their oldest box is targeted to ages 7-10. Nancy said that definitely wouldn't do. Her granddaughter had read and loved the whole Harry Potter series, The Lunar Chronicles, the Septimus Heap Books, I Will Always Write Back, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, Making Bombs for Hitler, To Kill a Mockingbird, Little Women, and more. 

Nancy said she had looked into OwlCrate, but that her granddaughter didn't want any of the "stuff" just the books. Little did we know, Amazon had just launched it's Prime Book Box for Kids, including a 9-12 age bracket. So, after we failed to find anything suitable I said "Hey, how about I send you a big list of books I think she'd like, and you can pick a couple each month and send them to her?" Everyone loved the idea, and Nancy dubbed it "Grandma's Book of the Month Club, curated by Alysa Stewart!"

Anyway, I thought the rest of you might like to peek at the list I put together. 

27 Books for a 12 Year Old Girl reading at a high level

I have put an asterisk (*) next to the ones that I have not personally read, but those are all either award winning and/or well loved by multiple kids/teachers I know. I have put a tilde (~) next to the ones that are the thickest. 


~The Letter for the King (realistic historical fiction)


Fake Blood (graphic novel, realistic fiction)

Bad Island (graphic novel, realistic fantasy)

Saffy's Angel & Indigo's Star (first two in a realistic fiction series)

*The Wild Robot (science fiction

 
*The One and Only Ivan (based on a true story)


What If? by Randall Monroe (non-fiction...speculative?)

Super Science: Matter Matters (a pop-up non-fiction book)



~The True Meaning of Smekday (science fiction)




Proud by Ibtihaj Muhammad (Non-fiction. I read the Young readers edition to my kids, so I haven't read the adult version and couldn't say if it has inappropriate content. The YRE was very inspiring)

*Under the Egg (mystery, realistic fiction)

Fuzzy Mud (realistic science fiction)





The View from the Cherry Tree (realistic fiction, mystery)

Leviathan (steampunk fantasy)

Terrible Typhoid Mary (non-fiction)

*Dragonwatch (fantasy)



El Deafo (graphic novel memoir)

*Story Thieves (fantasy)




~The Secret Keepers (realistic fiction, mystery)

Wires & Nerve Vol 1 & Vol 2 (Graphic Novel sequels to the lunar chronicles, science fiction)

~Steelheart (science fiction)


Bad Machinery: The Case of the Good Boy (graphic novel, mystery, fantasy)

***

About midway though the year I asked Nancy how it was going. She said "This last week I sent her The Wednesday Wars and Okay for Now by Gary Schmidt. . . I'm using your list and other recommendations. Ensley said it's the best present she's ever had!"

I hope you enjoyed this list. What would you add to it? 
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