Free (and nearly free) Children’s Books

Baby and books

I’m assuming that if you’re reading this post, you agree with introducing children to books when they’re babies to instill a lifelong love of learning. I know many parents who fill their homes with books, but buying books at retail can be expensive. Of course, my favorite resource for books is the public library. While I’m always thrilled at the crowds of children attending preschool story time or summer reading events, I realize much more are absent. While visiting the library is not a priority for some families, others want to and will actually go and check out numerous books. But in the hustle and bustle of everyday life, the books become overdue, or they are lost. In these cases, a person can spend more on fines and book replacement than actually buying discounted books. And children like having their own books that they can peruse and reread whenever they like.

Fortunately, I know of two great programs which will send infants and preschoolers a book a month- absolutely free – until their fifth birthday. Sixty books is enough reading material for a child to have his/her own library. And what child doesn’t love getting mail! One well-known program is Dolly Parton’s Imagination Station. In order for this program to work, local sponsors are needed, so you will need to check the website to see if it’s available in your area. If not, you’ll find information for starting a local program. The same goes for another great reading program which operates here in Georgia, the Ferst Foundation For Childhood Literacy. You simply go to their website, enter your county’s name to see if your child is eligible to receive books.

Now if you don’t have access to these programs, there are still numerous other resources for providing low cost books.

  1. Helping others move. My husband and I find ourselves once or twice a year helping friends or neighbors move. I’m amazed at the books I’ve collected over the years from these moves. There is always an offer to go through a donation pile. If the family has older or adult children, you have a great chance of finding children’s books.
  2. Yard sales and thrift stores. I don’t spend over a dollar, even for nice, board books. In these cases, people want to get rid of stuff. If they want more, I know I can find other sales for the price I’m willing to pay. The local Salvation Army store will many times offer paperbacks @ 10/$1 and hardbacks @ 4/$1.
  3. Library sales. Many of the local libraries in my area have friend’s groups which maintain a bookstore. Prices are rarely more than a dollar, and they even have sales. My favorite is to fill a bag for a set amount. Since I try to keep my book collection to a manageable amount; these stores become a revolving door as I make donations whenever I acquire “new” books.
  4. Rewards programs . Although I no longer participate, I’ve collected several nice, new books in the past five years from the Kellogg’s Reward Program. They partner with Scholastic books and offer children’s books as an incentive to buy their products. So if you buy a lot of Kellogg’s products, this is something you’ll want to sign up for.

What other resources are you aware of for free or cheap books? Please share in the comments.


5 Days of Fun, Frugal, Summer Activities: Day 5

children's art

Create some art! The SCRAP Bin is one of Carrollton’s gems which many people have yet to discover. When you walk in, you may be reminded of your great aunt who never throws anything away. No matter what you need for your creation, there’s a good chance you’ll find it here: buttons, sea shells, jars, paint, brushes, crayons, bottle caps, fabrics….. And the prices…$ 0.01/ per crayon, so  you collect enough for a box, and you have spent only $0.24! A bag  of acrylic paints for $1! Give your child a couple of dollars, and she can buy enough supplies to last until school resumes in August.

The SCRAP Bin also offers classes for modest fees; most range from $2 – $5. Following SCRAP Bin on Facebook is the best way to learn about activities. Here is a sampling for June and July:

  • Summer Camp, June 14 -17, 10:30 – 2:00.
  • C D Wind Spinners, June 21, 11:30 – 12:30, $2.
  • Create a Fairy Garden, June 28, $2.
  • Create a Bird Feeder, July 16, 11:30 – 1:00, $5.
  • Decorate Picture Frame, July 30, $2.

Another fun activity they sponsor in the summer is Art in the Park. Clues to this weekly scavenger hunt are posted on Facebook. As the name implies, the winner gets the artwork hidden in one of the area parks. What a great way to sharpen those analytical skills this summer!

Finding the store may seem like a scavenger hunt. It is located at 1111 Bankhead Hwy in the former Big Lots shopping center which is across from First Tuesday Mall. Their summer hours are Tuesday – Saturday, 10:30 – 2PM. They respond quickly to questions sent through Facebook.

Did you find something you liked in this series? Post photos to my Facebook page here. Please suggest other activities in the comments below. 

5 Days of Fun, Frugal, Summer Activities: Day 4


Explore the Greenbelt. You can stretch this into a summer adventure by taking one segment at a time. The loop contains sixteen miles of paved pathways around Carrollton which you can walk or bike. In fact, you can use any non-motorized mode of transportation. Use this map to choose a starting point. Your journey can become an opportunity to develop your child’s map reading skills. Be sure to make plenty of stops just to enjoy the scenic beauty, listen to birds, and watch wildlife. Near Hobb’s Farm, take a break at the wetlands area overlook. If you’re patient, you’re sure to spot something interesting. Several parks are located on or near the trail so pack a picnic lunch and save some bread for feeding the ducks on Lake Carroll.

If you would like a longer, more strenuous course, try the Silver Comet Trail which extends from 285 to the Georgia/Alabama border. Please comment on any other trails you enjoy.

5 Days of Fun, Frugal, Summer Activities: Day 3

children and nature

Natural areas are always favorite places for children to explore. Fortunately, you don’t have to travel far or spend much money to take advantage of nature in west Georgia. Summer is an even better time to visit these places due to special interpretive programs offered.

McIntosh Reserve Carroll County operates several parks which offer amenities such as camping, horseback trails, fishing, etc. A favorite destination is McIntosh Reserve which was once home to Creek Chief William McIntosh. It is located on the Chattahoochee River and has a reconstruction of McIntosh’s home. Each month the Friends of McIntosh Reserve sponsor a Walk and Talk program; the next Walk and Talk is Saturday, June 18. University of West Georgia biology professor Frank Fontanella will educate participants on reptiles and amphibians. The program begins at 9AM. For these activities, the normal $5 parking fee is waived, so this is a free event! Find out more about Carroll County Parks and their facilities and the Friends of McIntosh Reserve.

Historic Banning Mills If you’re a West Georgia resident, you have probably heard of their zip line tours. However, did you realize that Banning Mills regularly host “Winged Ambassadors?” As the name suggests, their mission is to educate the public about the value of birds of prey. Everyone in the family will enjoy this show, and the cost is only $5/person. There are several opportunities available to see this program. Get all the dates here, but be sure to call 770-834-9149 for confirmation as dates are subject to change.

Sweetwater Creek State Park Special programs are scheduled throughout the summer, and many are tailored toward children. There’s program fee (several are $3 -$5 per person) plus $5 parking fee, but remember you can check out a parking pass  at your local library. Children will love Snakes Alive, Dragonfly Discovery, and Children’s Nature Hike. Get details such as dates and fees at

5 Days of Fun, Frugal, Summer Activities: Day 2

Great memories are made at summer camp. Today’s post features one overnight and several day camps.

summer camp

Camp Grandview This is the Salvation Army’s camp for children located in Jasper, GA. They have three spaces available for June 20 – 25, for girls ages 7 – 12.  Campers have a great time as evidenced by this video. The camp is free; transportation is provided by bus from Carrollton. If interested, you must act quickly. Parents or guardians will need to complete an application at the Carrollton Service Center, located at 115 Lake Carroll Blvd, provide a copy of the child’s vaccination record, and a physical report of good health (must have been performed within the past year) by Friday, June 10. For more information, call 770-830-0120 . For readers who live in other areas, contact your Salvation Army service center for camp information.

Carrollton Cultural Arts Camps. These day camps meet Monday through Friday. They offer both visual and performance art camps so your child can develop her creative side.  The art camps range from free to $50 and include supplies. The theater camps conclude with a live public performance on the following Saturday evening; admission fee is $2. Primary theater camp is open to children ages 4 – 7 and costs $45. The children’s theater camp is for ages 8 – 12 and costs $75. Go here to learn more.

University of West Georgia Camps. Whatever your child’s age or interest, UWG continuing education has a camp for him! This is also a great way to sneak in some academics this summer; check out all the choices for these day camps. Both half day and full days are offered. The costs range from $79 to $300/camp.

5 Days of Fun, Frugal, Summer Activities: Day 1


Today,  I’m singing the praises of West Georgia’s regional libraries system’s summer reading program. When I was a child, our weekly visits to the local library were a treat. Just browsing in an air conditioned building and leaving with an armload of books motivated me to read all summer long. Now libraries offer incentives for reading and attending programs in which special guests entertain and educate at the same time. Some of the offerings this summer are magic shows, storytelling, Lego mine meld, and animal shows, including a reptile show at the Dog River library. Many offer a different program for teenagers; I noticed “broomball” on the calendar for the teen reading program at the Neva Lomason library. Be sure to check out all the different libraries’ programs. In addition to its summer reading program,  the Douglas county library has visiting reading therapy dogs. I love the idea of reading a story while petting a dog. The dogs have a calming effect on the children, and the child can choose any book she wants to read. All of these programs are free of charge; go here to sign up your child for summer reading. To learn more about the reading therapy dogs at the Douglas county library, go here.

How Can I Motivate My Child to Read?

boy reading

Many parents have asked me a variation of this question. These suggestions are mainly for struggling readers who will do anything to avoid reading. Peruse the list; use what you like; the most important factor is consistency.

  1. Set aside time each day as family reading time. If one of your children is a weak reader, but the others are avid readers, then he won’t feel singled out if everyone participates. You choose a time of day which you will be able to keep most consistently, whether it be morning, afternoon, or evening. You may want to start with fifteen minutes and gradually add more time. Let everyone choose his own reading material, the only requirement is that everyone is reading or listening to a story during that time. If your child prefers audio books, have him follow along with a hard copy. This is your excuse to set aside household chores and indulge yourself in a good book or magazine. No devices are allowed during this time, except for audio or e-reading. Make a commitment to do this the entire summer. You may have to miss some days, and some days will not go well, and you will think, “This is not working.” When you reach that point, remind yourself that you are committed to this until school resumes. By August, I guarantee that you will be pleased with the results.
  2. Allow for a variety of reading material. There are  limitless choices. A favorite of mine is magazines. You can find a variety on many levels covering any imaginable topic. Unlike a story, most articles can be read in part, and your child will benefit from improved fluency, vocabulary, as well as gaining knowledge on that topic. Picture books are written for all levels. I like to browse the youth section of the children’s room at our local library to find good picture books at fourth and fifth grade levels. One of my favorite is Rudy Rides the Rails. Other choices for older readers are Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul and devotional books. Some parents have expressed concern to me that their children pick easy books. That’s o.k. because they are still reading. You can try to guide them to more challenging materials, but let it go if they resist.
  3. Popcorn reading. If your child needs help with reading comprehension or decoding, you can incorporate some popcorn reading. You read a page, then he reads a page. This can be modified where you read more, and he reads less, or vice versa. Since you’re reading together, you can ask questions in a more natural way. Do  you think the character is scared? How do you know?  As fluency improves, you can require him to read more. I notice that some children are more willing to read when an adult engages with them. One important suggestion is that you hold off on correcting them. I like to let the child finish a paragraph before rereading the sentence with the mistake. Many times, they correct themselves. If they don’t, I will ask, “Does that sound right to you?” Only at this point do I help if needed.
  4. Make It Fun. As  a family,  you can listen to an audio book. This is great because you can do this on long car trips also. Another fun activity is to turn off all lights and read by flashlight. Young children love to play with flashlights, and this trains beginning readers in tracking text. You  can also use stories as a riddle. Plan a trip to a blueberry farm; the day before read Blueberries for Sal, then ask your child(ren) to guess what activity you’re going to do. You can find other stories to fit any activity. Your children’s librarian is a great resource for ideas.
  5. Record their progress. I notice that children become more confident when they can measure their progress. You can simply keep a chart and use tally marks for pages read. If you want to reward them, you can drop a penny in a jar for each page. Your child will enjoy watching the jar fill as the summer progresses.

What would you like to add to this list?