What to do with old children's books

I am not overly sentimental, but when it comes to stuff my kids have outgrown I have the hardest time letting go. Our bookshelves are overflowing with books. In fact, it feels like our whole house is overflowing with books. Last night Luke said, “Everywhere I turn, there is an explosion of books.”

It’s a fun problem to have, but it’s starting to feel a little too crowded. Time to thin the books. Here is what we do with books the kids have outgrown or no longer read regularly:

Give them to a Little Free Library

Our neighborhood has a Little Free Library on nearly every block. This is where I turn to first with gently used books. Each library is run a little differently. Our favorite has a “curator” who chooses books she loves. Other neighbors leave books, too, so there is almost always a wide variety of kids and adult books to choose from. I frequently bring our overflow books to share with the neighborhood kids.

Donate to your school library

Did you know your school library is probably desperate for new books? In our district, the school gets a specific allotment of books recommended by a library consultant. Beyond that, they are dependent on donations (and, sadly, personal purchases by the librarian) to stock the shelves. This is a great option, especially, for diverse books that are sorely lacking in some of the older stock available at school libraries.

Donate to a nonprofit

There are so many nonprofit organizations that need books. Donate your old books that are still in good shape to reading programs, tutoring programs, homeless shelters, churches, preschools and more. Bean’s preschool is a bilingual nonprofit working for 100 percent kindergarten readiness, so we donate all the bilingual books we’re done with there.

Give to friends with younger kids

Books that are still in good condition are a perfect gift for other families. We received our copy of Goodnight Moon as a gift and it remains in perfect condition to this day. I think of the family who gave it to us every time we look at it, and I appreciate that they gave us a treasured book from their collection.

Hold a book swap

My book club has twice yearly event where we exchange clothes and books. This is always a raucous event where we laugh at each other’s horrendous discarded items—and also snag some really great stuff that other people don’t want anymore. I always leave with items that I’m excited about that someone would have otherwise disposed of. Try it.

Try an online book exchange

I’m a member of paperbackswap.com, which is an online book exchange. Members post their available books and if someone requests one, they send it to the requester via media mail (the cheapest way to send books by mail). Every time you send out a book, you get a credit to request a book from someone else. I use paperbackswap.com to get rid of old books, and in return I request books we’ve borrowed from the library that I’d like to add to our collection.

Save your favorites

Even if you’re done a book for now, that doesn’t mean you should necessarily give it away. I save our favorite-favorites and they remain on our bookshelves (for now). The girls even go back to reading their board books sometimes. It’s fun for them to remember what their favorite books were as babies and toddlers. As they get older, I’ll pack them away and decide what to do with them later.

A last resort-recycle them

Well loved paperback books that are no longer in readable condition can be recycled in some communities. Unfortunately, hardcover books cannot be recycled. If they’re too damaged to reuse or donate, they have to be tossed in the garbage.

What do you do with books you’re done with? Leave a note in the comments with your best ideas.

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