How to Build a Homeschool Library (and on budget!)

Building a home library doesn’t have to break your budget. I’ve built our library over years and years of teaching in the classroom and homeschooling. We buy most of our books used; I rarely leave a thrift store without at least one book. Whether you are a homeschooling family or just a book loving family, these tips for building a home library will help you get started and stick to a budget!

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Where are the best places to find used books?

Thrift stores

When looking for used books, thrift stores are my favorite places to look. Some thrift stores can be better than others, but I always swing into the book section, even when I don’t expect to find much.

Rummage sales

Yard sales, rummage sales, garage sales… whatever you call them, you can often find some great used books for a very cheap price. The problem? You might have to go to ten sales before you even find one that has books at all. But sometimes you hit the jackpot! So they’re worth checking, but not reliable.

Used bookstores

These seem to be going by the wayside, but used bookstores can be a great place to find used books. I have good luck at Half Price Books – I actually have better luck in store than their online store. I especially find this to be a great place to find non-fiction books for our homeschool.

Online bookstores

Thrift Books – this is one of my favorite places to buy used books online. They have a wide array of options, lots of kids’ books, and you can search through the inventory to find the least expensive option. You can get 15% off your first order when you use my referral link.


Amazon – obviously you can buy new books on Amazon, but did you know you can find used books there as well? When searching for a book, scroll down to the “used & new” section. If you click on that link, you can search through the used options. Sometimes these options aren’t any cheaper, but often you can find them for at least half the price (especially if it is an older book)

These stores are not for used books, but are some of my favorite places to buy new books, so they deserve an honorable mention in this post:


Books 4 School – this company is amazing – they sell new books at really low prices, and you don’t have to be a school to buy from them. If you’re local to Madison, WI you can pick up free or they ship anywhere.
Usborne Books – these are some of my absolute favorite books for our homeschool! This is my go-to shop for early readers and non-fiction books.
Christian Book – watch for sales – they have great ones!

What should you look for when buying used books?

The used book section of a thrift store can feel a little overwhelming, so it’s good to go in with an idea of what you’re looking for. Hopefully these tips will give you a good place to start.

Go in with a list

Keep a list on your phone of topics you’re looking for (if there are subjects you plan to study this year or topics your kids are interested in, write them on a list so you remember to look for them). If there is a book series your kids like, take note of which books are missing.

Look for familiar authors

Grab books that are written by an author you’re familiar with or that you and your kids already like.

Look for non-fiction books

I find that non-fiction books are good to grab at the thrift store, because you can often tell at a glance if they are decent books or not. Take a glance through the book before purchasing, so you can get an idea of the content and whether it’s worth purchasing. Biographies, nature books, historical picture books, etc. are usually easy to find at thrift stores.

Look for awards

If a book has an award like the Caldecott or Newbery, it’s probably a good pick, even if you’ve never heard of the book.

Look for quality construction

Steer clear of books that are ripped or falling apart, unless you think you can easily repair them.

Do a quick online search

If a book looks interesting, but it’s not familiar to you, do a quick search for a summary or a review of the plot while you’re in the store.

Don’t dismiss vintage books

I have a big soft spot for vintage items, especially books. Vintage picture books – especially non-fiction ones – often tend to be higher quality content and less fluff.

Avoid books based on cartoon characters or TV shows

This one is a personal choice, and you can disagree, but I find that books that are based on cartoons or TV shows have low quality content and not usually worth purchasing.

Bonus tip:

If you’re looking at a big shelf of books, especially a disorganized one, you can easily get overwhelmed. Give yourself some boundaries: look for a specific amount of time or just look for one type of book. It’s okay to walk out empty handed!

Looking for tips and suggestions for teaching reading and supporting your kids as they develop their reading skills? Check out this Reading Resources page for all my reading resources, including my recommended book lists.

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