7 Ways To Build a Sustainable Home Library for Kids

Looking to build a sustainable home library for kids? Check out these resources to make the most of your local library, find secondhand books, and support literacy programs while creating a home library for your little ones.

Books are doorways to worlds we likely we’ll never see with our own eyes. They introduce readers and listeners to be people, places, cultures, stories, and so much more.

Furthermore, literacy is an integral part of education and lifelong learning premised on humanism as defined by the Sustainable Development Goal 4. International Literacy Day has been celebrated around the world for more than fifty years. Despite progress, 773 million people still lack basic literacy skills.

Sustainable Home Libraries and Literacy

Myriad research shows that access to print materials and books in a child’s home are some of the most important factors influencing a child’s level of literacy and their connection to books. For example, according to The Literacy Crisis: False Claims, Real Solutions, “The only behavior measure that correlates significantly with reading scores is the number of books in the home.”

Public and home libraries provide fun and engaging access to the books that are so important to a child’s growth and development. Public libraries are community epicenters that provide access to many resources and experiences one might not otherwise enjoy. While we can’t replicate the entire library community, we can create a space at home to experience doors to different worlds and people and information.

Sustainable home libraries capitalize on the resources of a community library and supplement that with physical books, audiobooks, and other resources purchased to supports local bookstores and literacy programs. We’ve rounded up several ways to create a sustainable home library without breaking the bank.

Books are an integral tool required to raise our future global citizens. We can’t possibly introduce children to everything we want them to learn through travel and hands-on experience (as much as we might like that to be true). Books help us bringing faraway places, distant cultures, and big ideas to life without expensive planes tickets and hotel bills burdened by large carbon footprints. Travel is amazing, but so is learning about the world cozied up with a book in a nook at home.

7 Ways To Build a Sustainable Home Library for Kids

There are so many ways to access books and find books at affordable prices. Check out these six ways to create a sustainable home library for the global kidizens in your life.

Learn To Use Your Local Library

Before investing in your own books, take advantage of the resources at your own local library, if you have access to one. Libraries are full of books for kids, and librarians are well-trained to curate the latest and greatest books in every genre. Just because you don’t keep the book at home forever doesn’t mean it can’t play a role in your sustainable family library.

Browse your library for books that you think may catch your children’s attention. Let them browse and choose their own books too. Just about any book is a good book if your child wants to read it and it fosters their love of learning and desire to read for pleasure.

Don’t be afraid to head to the library with a list of specific books you’d like to check out. Before you head out to the library, you can also search for books on specific topics with a simple internet search.

We’ve curated an amazing list of picture books that align with each of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. On my own blog, Honestly Modern, I’ve also created lots of picture booklists about eco-friendly and nature-related topics like picture books about bugs and butterflies, picture books about gardens, and more. The internet is chock full of amazing book lists for kids about nearly any topic you want to explore.

To make the most of your library resources, you can browse upon arrival or request in advance on their website that the library hold books for you (if that’s available to you). Many libraries offer this service, and they will share books from their shelves as well as the shelves of many other libraries in their local library networks.

Lastly, don’t be shy about asking your librarian for book recommendations. Librarians are expert book recommenders so take advantage of all the research and training they have. That’s their job, and they are librarians because they love recommending books!

If you want to learn more about how to use your local library, I’ve shared a bunch more ideas over on my blog. Check out the whole series of posts highlighting how Libraries Are More Than Books and make the most of the resources your local library has to offer.

Using libraries is a great way to build and support your local community, share and responsibly use resources, and practice collective consumption. A thriving library is definitely a valuable element in pursuing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals in any community.

Buy Secondhand Books From Better World Books

When you’re ready to start gathering your own collection of books at home, don’t overlook secondhand books. Better World Books is a non-profit online bookseller site that gathers used books and resells them to customers like you and me. They use their profits to fund literacy programs around the world.

Better World Books is a great place to find affordable, secondhand books for your sustainable home library while also supporting efforts to help more kidizens around the world learn to read in their communities. Check out more about Better World Books and building a sustainable home library on a budget through their enormous collection for sale on their website.

Support Local Secondhand Bookstores

Check out secondhand bookstores in your local community too. Local and independent secondhand bookshops may have more books that are specifically relevant to your local area. It’s also a great chance to bolster your local economy and support a small business in your neighborhood.

Choosing secondhand reduces resource consumption. Shopping locally minimizes the carbon footprint of our purchasing habits. And a thriving local economy creates good jobs for many people in the community. All of these values are consistent with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Request A Gift of Books From Your Buy Nothing Group

If you have a Buy Nothing Group in your area, ask for books from your neighbors to create your sustainable home library. Let neighbors know what types of books you’d like to receive: genre, reading level, content type, etc… It’s likely many people will be happy to share their abundance of books they no longer need.

Last week, a neighbor requested Boxcar Children books for his daughter. We had several we no longer needed, so we offered them up. Coincidently, he had just fulfilled our request for new toy cars a week earlier. We each got new gifts for our kids without spending a dime or creating more waste.

Related Reading: 10 Favorite Gifts I Gave In My Buy Nothing Group

Buy Nothing Groups are great for offering up our things, but we can also glean joy from asking for specific items. Buy Nothing Groups are designed to encourage offering and requesting, so don’t be shy.

If you don’t have a Buy Nothing Group in your area, consider starting one! There is some legwork to get it up and running and ensure it complies with the principles of the organization, but I think it’s well worth the effort if you have the time to create it.

Purchase Books Through Bookshop.org

If you can’t find the book you want through a local bookstore or at your library, avoid Amazon and purchase the book through Bookshop.org.

Bookshop.org is a B corporation that supports independent bookstores through online sales. They compete with Amazon and give customers who prefer shopping online an alternative to support their local bookstore from their computer. Customers can select the specific bookstore they want to support with their purchases or allow their purchases to support a broad pool of funds that are shared with independent bookstores more generally.

I’ve been using Bookshop for over a year, and they have had all the books I wanted to purchase. They do have a small shipping fee unlike Amazon (where most people probably have free shipping through Prime). However, they offer discounts on certain books to help keep prices comparable with Amazon. Further, supporting local bookstores is an investment in our communities and a diverse economy. If you can, supporting local and independent bookshops is well worth the small investment in a shipping fee.

Use Little Free Libraries

Little Free Libraries are small free-standing book cabinets, a bit larger than a mailbox, that help people rehome books in their local communities. They’ve grown in popularity quite a bit in recent years. At no cost, you can take a book or donate a book to the Little Free Library, and they’re a fun way to build a greater sense of local community.

Use the Little Free Library World Map tool to find a location near you. Many of them are in parks and near playgrounds, though you might also find them in people’s front yards. They are such a fun way to get out in your neighborhood and engage with your community through a shared love of books.

Stop by a little free library while you’re out and about and grab a book or two for your home library. While you can donate books to the libraries, you can also take books for free (no strings attached). Grab a book from a little free library every once in a while or from different little free libraries in your area to build your own sustainable library at home.

Related Reading: 6 Ways to Enjoy Reading Outside

Create a Sustainable Library of Audiobooks

A sustainable home library can include print and audiobooks. My boys love audiobooks, and we listen to them while they play with LEGO, ride in the car, and even while we cook. Many libraries offer audiobooks in their collection, so inquire at your local library if you aren’t sure how to use their audiobook platforms.

Libro.fm is a great audiobook resource. They work with local bookshops so you can purchase your audiobooks through your specific local bookstore.  Libro.fm is my favorite audiobook app, and you can read all about why I think it’s so great and recommend it to anyone searching for a great way to listen to their favorite books.

Sustainable Storage for Books and Library Books

There’s no need for any fancy storage system or complicated bookcases to create a sustainable home library. We use a laundry basket or a dedicated corner to keep our library books separate from our own books. It really helps ensure we don’t lose library books and makes it much easier to collect books when it’s time to return them.

If you want a shelf or dedicated space for your books, check out Facebook Marketplace, a secondhand swap group, or a local consignment store. A coat of paint can turn just about any bookshelf into something perfect for your space.

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Be a responsible consumer and do your best to use resources already available in your local area. Scoring a great secondhand bookshelf reduces resource consumption, limits carbon emissions from transportation of the shelf, and sends a little extra cash to the person who no longer needs that lovely shelf or storage nook. Keeping our money in our local community has many economic and environmental benefits.

Books are a magical window to the rest of the world and a path to experience so much more than what we encounter each day at home. Leaders are readers, and our next generation of responsible global citizens will hopefully have a book in their hands along the journey.

What other ideas do you have to create and curate a sustainable home library? We’d love to hear them, so share in the comments and let us know.

If You Like Building A Sustainable Home Library, You Might Also Like:

30+ Ways To Responsibly Dispose Of Old Books (Sell, Donate, & Recycle)

7 Ways Young Kids Can Volunteer In Their Community

8 Ways to Use Your Local Sharing Economy For Free

5 Ways To Support Your Local Library & Why It Matters

About The Author

Jen Panaro

Jen Panaro, a co-founder of Raising Global Kidizens, is a self-proclaimed composting nerd and an advocate for sustainable living for modern families. She’s also a serial library book borrower and a messy gardener.

As a mom to two boys, she is passionate about helping families be more responsible stewards to their communities and the planet. She also owns Honestly Modern, an online space focused on eco-friendly living for modern families.

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