Best Tips for Thrifting Books for Kids: Picture Book Hunt

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Colorful children's picture books packed on three rows of shelves at the local book thrift store with decorative and black bold text reading "Best tips for thrifting books for kids."

Thrifting books for kids has become one of my favorite hobbies. Building a home library can cost a small fortune. I am a stay-at-home mom, and the budget is tight. While book thrifting is fun, it is also a great way for our family to save money. And it keeps precious literary gems and those vintage books out of the landfill. Thus, buying more books is better for the environment, right? So, let us save some money, find books at low prices, and have fun.

There are many benefits of building a home library with used books.

Unfortunately, certain books won’t always be available. Building a library now allows you to loan or pass down some of your favorite old books to future children or grandchildren. Books can be like old friends, reminding you of the good times. I know I am romanticizing a bit. 🙂

There are two downsides to thrifting books for kids.

overflowing books from shelves

Often bookshelves in the stores are cluttered and visually overwhelming. There is a plethora of cartoonish clutter with little value. I believe in the Charlotte Mason world: it is called “twaddle.” But don’t worry; I have a system.

It can be time consuming

But not if you have a system. In this article, I listed ten tips to help you find the best books for your home library. Rich literature is worth the hunt.

Here are My Top 3 Secrets for Thrifting Books for Kids:

  1. By Author
  2. By Classic Titles
  3. By List of Titles
Faded mustard yellow, blue, and rustic red paint blobs with bold black text listing tips for thrifting books for kids with images of colorful stacked books, a lady reading, and a mama reading to her son.

Freebie Includes: 15 Children’s Authors, 10 Classic Titles, and Book Board Finds.

Best 10 Tips For Building Your Home Library Through Used Books

1. Search By Author

Make a running list of authors

As you read books with your kids, note your favorite authors and keep a running list in a notebook or the notes app on your phone. I like to keep a list on my phone. My list has grown over the years. I now have a list of authors for multiple genres. Keeping a running list allows you to be always ready to tackle the bookstore alphabetically. I highly recommend searching by authors when thrifting books for kids.

2. Search By Classic Titles

Familiarize yourself with children’s classic literature

Start by making a list of your childhood favorites, the vintage children’s books. 🙂 This is a great place to start. Books classified as Children’s classic literature have stood the test of time. These books are the best-loved and are usually the easiest books to spot in the children’s section at a thrift store.

3. Collect Board Books for the Youngest Reader

build a beginner library with board books

Board books are a great place to start with your little ones. I like to buy cheaper books and used books for little hands because there will be scribbles, tears, and maybe some drool. Often a bookstore will have a large selection of almost new board and activity books. I prefer board books in almost excellent condition when purchasing board books. Sandra Boynton, Eric Carle, and Dr. Seuss have some excellent board books to add to your library.

4. Don’t Be Afraid to Fail

Be prepared to leave without anything

You don’t have to compromise because not all books are created equally. If a book is in poor condition or does not fit your family values, skip it and keep searching. It can be overwhelming when the bookshelves overflow with books spilling onto the floor. However, no book thrifting trip is a bust. There is a lot to learn about children’s literature. And by searching a few shelves and titles, you familiarize yourself with new books and classic titles. It takes practice.

5. Avoid Looking For One Specific Book

If you are on the hunt for one, online is THE best

This will set you up for disappointment or a very long, frustrating trip.

6. Make a List of Your Favorite Books

Keep a list of your family’s favorite books

Don’t just focus on the classics. Find books of various genres to discover what you and your family enjoy reading. If you are beginning your book journey, I recommend starting at your local library. I have many picture book recommendations for kids on my site, and it’s growing.

7. Hunt At Different Locations

It’s a treasure hunt. Don’t Feel confined to a book thrift store.

Here are the best places to find used and cheap books:

  1. yard sales/garage sales
  2. thrift stores, secondhand, or consignment stores
  3. library used book sales
  4. book swaps
  5. facebook marketplace
  6. online (, half price books)

8. Give Books A Trial Run

Try before you buy

There are two easy ways to view books before you buy them. Visit your local library or search for online, free books.

List of online places for FREE E-books or previews

  1. google books
  3. Gateway to the Classics
  4. Internet Archive Library
  5. The Rosetta Project (collection of children books)

Please have discernment for all listed websites. I use them sparingly and cannot know every book in the online databases.

C.S. Lewis's quote is written in bold black font with decorative mustard yellow, blue, and rustic red books arranged on a wooden shelf over a photograph of the children's section at a used bookstore.

9. Don’t Hesitate to be picky

All children’s books are not created equally

Great books contain the power to spark new ideas and help shape who you are as a person. I encourage you to take the time to seek out books filled with noble characters, valuable life lessons, beautiful illustrations, and stories that come alive and spark your child’s imagination. These are living books.

“A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.”

C.S. Lewis

10. Turn it into a game

Make it a mini-adventure

Firstly, a word of caution. Teach your children discernment before allowing them to pursue a bookstore unsupervised. Unfortunately, there are many children’s books that contain information and illustrations that are not wholesome and may not align with your values.

Here are a few games for older kids in a book thrift store:

  • give them a scavenger hunt list including animals, colors, authors, letters, themes, etc.
  • provide them a scorecard like bingo with certain authors to find
  • create a poem using only the words along the spine of books (spine poetry)
  • seek out beautiful scenery along the spine of books

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Wholesome Booklists for Kids:

35 Best Farm Books for Kids

A white gravel road leads up to a red barn with white trim and white fencing up on a hill. The sky is blue with white fluffy clouds and the sun is just starting to set behind the trees.

Get the complete list of books HERE.

Books About Compassion for Kids: Teaching Kindness

Multiple different children's books about compassion for kids are arranged on a light blue background with bold black text and decorated blue and gray stars.

Get the complete booklist HERE.

28 Books on Plants, Trees, and Flowers

Book covers are arranged on a pale green background with green artist designs and leaves with bold black text on the image for children books on plants booklist.

Get the complete booklist HERE.

Thanks for Stopping By!

Lastly, I want to thank you for stopping by! Please say Hi in the comment section and share your best book find at a thrift store. I am always hunting for board books, paperback books, collector books, and picture books to fill our home library. The early readers and chapter books section of our home library is beginning to fill up. I am excited to share those with you someday soon.

– With Great Joy, Katie


Colorful children's picture books packed on three rows of shelves at the local book thrift store with decorative and black bold text reading "Best tips for thrifting books for kids."

See All Our Booklists HERE.

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