By Susan Spelic


With childcare fees through the roof and the increasing cost of living, families are faced with the dilemma of how juggle bills, while accessing quality reading materials for their kids. With the holiday season fast approaching and having time to slow down to read to and with our kids, here are five simple ways to access literacy resources, while on a tight budget.


  1. Plan a family trip to the library
  • Kids LOVE what’s in libraries. Not only are there a whole range of books, but there are also often displays during school holidays, to spark their interest.
  • If your friendly librarian is free, ask them to show your family around the library or, make an appointment for a walk-through, to familiarize yourself with the facilities and the borrowing processes.
  • Check out the ‘What’s on?’ feature on library websites. There will be FREE workshops for parents, story-time sessions, visiting authors among other scheduled events. Ask your children which ones they’d like to attend, so they feel their opinions are being heard and their interests are being noted.
  • Remember, libraries have eBooks, audiobooks and DVDs to enthuse your family- perfect for long drives!
  • Every now and then, libraries replenish their book collections and toss out old books on special days. This is a good opportunity for families to source cheap and sometimes, free stuff.
  • Did you know, that the library collections officer can be contacted with special requests if there’s a special book your child has seen other kids read? Chances are that they’ve already purchased it for your library but if not, ask. It’s a free way of being the first ones to read a brand-new book. You’ve got to love that!


  1. Suburban surprises!

Have you noticed small cabinets with shelves of books in a suburban area? Odds on, you’ve seen the Little Free Libraries book exchange program in action. Based on an honesty system, people with big hearts and a passion for literature, build a collection of beautiful books from various sources, and display them for passersby, to borrow and return, perhaps with another offering that another family could enjoy reading. It’s a fun thing to locate such homes and to offer up your unwanted, quality books for others to enjoy, while borrowing one that you can enjoy as a family. Each cubby will have its own personality and appeal. It might inspire your child to build one with a friend or family member to give back to your community. Converting an old cupboard into a book exchange site would provide your child with a practical, problem solving experience. Perhaps a grandparent or, a retired neighbour with spare time would be interested in helping out.


  1. Opportunities and bargains!

 When you are culling your kids’ extra clothes and household items, if you’re like me, you throw away some as they’re not good enough to pass on to another family. I’m proud to say that I’m an experienced opp-shopper who’s found many a hidden treasure! As a teacher, the opp-shop was my go-to place, when I needed magazines and quality kid’s books. When I was given the huge task of resourcing a newly built school (just a building site really!) I was able to access hundreds of quality hardcover books from various thrift shops. If you’re a Melburnian and wondered why there were empty, opp-shop bookshelves back in 2009, I unashamedly confess that the culprit was probably me!


  1. How can your child’s school help?
  • Does your child’s school have a library? Ask when their class is timetabled to go to the library and ensure that they have a library bag (if needed).
  • Make sure their take-home reader is regularly changed and is not too easy or, too hard. Your child’s teacher will be more than happy to guide your child because they’ll know what to send home.
  • Non-fiction books are fun too and can also be used to spark a family discussion over dinner. Kids love books on Natural Disasters, World records (the tallest man,) sport (The Olympic Games,) dinosaurs (they’ll be able to recite the obscure names of many dinosaurs and their attributes) chemistry and science experiments, jokes, cooking and even stories about other families and naughty kids!
  • Remember, regular reading to your child is quality time.


  1. Dust off your own favourite children’s books

This might seem to be an obvious one but kids love hearing stories about when their parents were little. They also love seeing photos of their folks as babies and especially when they were their age.  If you cuddle up with a favourite old book (even if it’s not one of your own but a classic from the library) they’ll love hearing the stories about why you liked that particular book as a kid. Your enthusiasm for the story or book may motivate your child to chase up books by the same author. My personal favourites were Gene Zion’s  ‘Harry the Dirty Dog’ and Enid Blyton’s ‘The Faraway Tree.’  Remember to check them out as audiobooks for that upcoming road trip! Roald Dahl’s classics are a hoot to listen to in the car.  The Very Hungry Caterpillar’s Eric Carle wrote the amazing ‘Pappa, Please Get The Moon For Me!’ This title still makes me tear up every time I read it to a child. It’s so beautiful!


I know what worked for my family when we navigated life as a young family on a frugal, single income. I do hope these thrifty ideas serve you well.


You may also like to read:

Too many books? I think what you mean is not enough bookshelves

Encouraging your child to read

A child who reads will be an adult who thinks