Building a Home Library of 500 Books

two thick volumes sit in front of a book-jammed bookshelf

A study conducted by the University of Nevada over a period of 20 years using data from 27 countries found that families with books in the home (even as few as 20), had children who attended school between 2.4 years and 6.6 years longer than children who lived in homes without books. The researchers indicated that a library of 500 books provided the maximum educational value.

The study also found that the presence of books in the home had twice as much affect on a child’s perseverance in attending school than the education level of her or his parents.

Having a home library could mean the difference between a child who becomes a doctor and a child who drops out of high school. The data from the study makes it obvious that building a home library—print, digital, or a combination—is essential for long-term academic success for homeschoolers.

Purchasing 500 books to create a homeschool library could cost several thousand dollars—a price tag that is beyond the reach of many families. Luckily, you don’t have to purchase all of your books all at one time or at full price. The following resources help you build a home library for much less than retail value. By spreading out your purchases over several years with these tips, you can build that 500 book library and stay well within budget. 

Thrift Shops

The thrift shop is one of my favorite places to search for books because I can find both recently published books and classic editions. My local thrift shops usually charge $2 or less for most books. Taking a road trip? Look for thrift stores on the road to break up the trip and build your library at the same time.

Library Sales

Every year, my local library has a Friends of the Library sale where I can get quality books for  $1 or less. Ask your library when their sales are, and sign up for email notifications.

Wise Curriculum Choices

When you select homeschool curriculum, choose materials that will build a library of books that beg to be read or referenced again and again. A literature-rich curriculum like BookShark offers real books that you will be happy to store on your bookshelves for years to come instead of reselling at the next used curriculum fair. After a few years of buying BookShark complete packages you will be close to the magical 500 book mark.

Friends and Family

Building a Home Library of 500 BooksI am lucky enough to come from a long line of book hoarders who give us books for free. Let friends and family know that you are happy to look through their unwanted books, and you are sure to end up with some great titles. Remember that your homeschool library can be built from all kinds of topics, genres, and formats. 

Homeschool Book Fairs

At homeschool book fairs, most families are willing to sell their gently used books for reasonable prices, and some may even be willing to do a trade with you. I once purchased the entire set of A Series of Unfortunate Events for less than $10 at a book fair.

Garage/Estate Sales

Garage and estate sales will be hit-or-miss because you won’t know if they are selling books until you go, but you can find books here that you won’t find anywhere else (except perhaps eBay). Some of my favorite vintage coffeetable books were found at estate sales.

As a bonus, most garage/estate sellers know books are hard to move so they will probably give you an amazing deal if you buy several books. Don't be afraid to negotiate for special prices.

Second Hand Book Stores

You have to be careful at second hand book stores. The prices are less than new books, but even at half-price, you can easily spend hundreds of dollars in one trip. For that reason, I usually reserve trips to the second-hand bookstore for buying titles on a wishlist rather than browsing.

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Brenda PriddyBrenda Priddy is a professional writer and homeschooling mother to two girls in Dallas, TX with a passion for books, DIY, and creative education. Her blog, Schooling a Monkey, is all about homeschooling, crafts, green living, and fun. Keep up with the fun here!