Setting up a School Book Exchange

posted in: 2. Illustrators and Authors | 16

[Doing a little dance :-)] Today is the start of Children’s Book Week here in the UK!

I’ll be at M and J’s school today launching a book exchange, our first big activity for Children’s Book Week.

The idea for this grew out of the fact that our local library closed 18 months ago and so I wanted to find a way to encourage the children I came into contact with through reading at my girls’ school to not lose the habit of reading new books and discovering new delights. As I thought about how I might support a mini local library through the school I first came across @BookElfLeeds and her Travelling Suitcase Library and then the utterly gorgeous Free Little Library movement. I decided to take the best from both worlds and thus the school Book Exchange was born.

The Book Exchange lives in this suitcase, which I got just a teensy bit carried away with decorating…

I used images from book catalogues, book calendars and book magazines and simply glued them on to the suitcase with PVA glue before finishing it off with a couple of layers of clear varnish. My thanks go to @redtedart and @makeitandmendit for their advice on glue and varnish!

Inside the suitcase is a wide variety of children’s books, some of which were donated by Melanie of Library Mice fame and some of which were bought with funds from Tidy Book‘s sponsorship of our book week events.

The idea of the exchange is very simple – children donate a book to the exchange library and then they can take a book from the exchange library. That’s all there is to it. If they love their new book they can keep it forever. If they don’t want to keep it they can swap it again the following week.

Because kids at M and J’s school already get reading books twice a week and school library books every week we had to find a way of identifying books that are part of the book exchange so I created a logo which we’ve printed on stickers and stuck to the exchange library stock.

Please feel free to re-use this logo if you would like to set up a book exchange (simple right click on the image of the logo and save as, or email me if you need an svg version of the image).

We sent home a letter to parents explaining what the purpose of the exchange is and how it is going to work. Click here to read the letter – and please feel free to re-use/adapt this letter if you set up your own exchange. As you’ll see in the letter we provide guidelines about the type of books we’d accept for the exchange (basically we’re very happy with second-hand books, as long as they are in reasonably condition, and not written for adults or baby board books).

We’ve decided to kick start the exchange by giving every child in the class I most regularly read to a book of their own to begin with. This gift will be their first experience of Children’s Book Week and will hopefully encourage them to take part in the exchange which will start in earnest next week.

If you’re interested in another model for a school book exchange or swap you might be interested in this article about the Guardian Book Swap in schools. I’d also like to thank again Melanie from Library Mice. Not only did she very generously donate a wonderful selection of books for the exchange, she also was a great sounding-out board as our ideas for the exchange gradually developed.

16 Responses

  1. ally

    Beautiful suitcase Zoe – perfect I think
    Great idea too – although we find it hard to give up books!
    As always – very inspiring

  2. GillyM

    I’m a teacher librarian in a Primary School here in Sydney. I encouraged a group of keen students to start a book swap at lunch-times. They more or less run it themselves and it is proving quite successful. 98% of our children are from non-English speaking backgrounds and from cultures that do not value books. My aim is for each child to have their own home library whether it is in a cardboard box, a pile under the bed, or indeed a suitcase!

    I love yours and am also loving your tablecloth . . .
    Thank you for inspiring blog . . .
    Happy Reading!

  3. Zoe

    Thankyou Ally, Gilly and Jackie for the encouragement. The fabric is from Anna Maria Horner’s Drawing Room range – I originally bought it as I wanted to make a coat with a book pattern on it, but I think it will work really well for the exchange display 🙂 In time, we’re certainly hoping to get the children involved in running the swap – I think that’s a great idea. And yes! to home libraries big or small – such a great aim Gilly!

  4. sandhya

    What a lovely, lovely idea. I always love it when the love of reading can be propogated by any means. Recently A was cajoled into giving up some of her old books (she cannot let go of them so easily) to donate to her school library.

  5. Zoe

    Thanks Sandhya, it will be interesting to see what children and parents feel about swapping books – I know it might not be right for every family – and that’s fine. We’re not anticipating everyone taking part, but it’s a way of reaching out to those for whom it does work in place of our lost local library.

  6. Zoe

    Thanks Library Mice and Susan – I’m lucky to have such a great community of book loving friends around me in the blogosphere – you guys are my source of enthusiasm and inspiration!

  7. Ruth Waterton

    This sounds like such a great idea, particularly for small schools in rural areas that might struggle to maintain a large library.

  8. Tara

    It’s such an inspirational scheme. my children’s school only gives out one book a week so this is exactly the sort of scheme that is needed there. I love your suitcase too and am totally inspired to make one to store my kids books in at home.

  9. Claire Thomas

    Thank you for sharing your lovely ideas. If you do not mind I am going to ‘magpie’ your suitcase idea, it is such an eyecatching resource that I am sure the children will love when we do our book swap on 2nd March, We did it last year and it was very successful.

  10. Lorena McManus

    Hello. My name is Lorena. I’m a volunteer with our local Children’s Museum in a city in Canada, which is Winnipeg,Manitoba. I’m part of a committee that’s setting up a small book exchange within the museum. I commend you on what you’ve done! marvelous! I wonder if I could ask you a couple of questions. Your experience would be so valuable to us!

    First of all do you have any guidelines regarding the kind of books you accept or don’t accept? Also how do you categorize your books?

    Thank you so much! Kind regards, Lorena

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