The Joys of Used Children's Books

Recently I’ve been trained to work on what is sometimes called the “Buy Counter” at Ravenna, where we take a look at the books customers bring in for store credit and that we may choose to buy for our store inventory. I’d never done that kind of work, and it interested me a bit, but the best part was that as the Children’s Book lead at the store, I could help determine which kids used books will do best for our customers. 

Third Place Books has an incredible selection of the newest books being published for kids, and as a bookseller, it’s amazing to be one of the first people to see gorgeous new picture books every day as they come out of the box. It’s really what I have this job for. 

But used books is something altogether different. Recently I asked a customer if I could help him find anything. It’s the bookseller’s standard question, but everyday there is at least one person whose answer is the beginning of an exciting seek-and-find on the shelves. 

This customer was looking for books to give as a gift to his neighbors who had just welcomed a baby. But, he informed me, the parents were interested in not buying anything new. He had a few books in his arms when I began to pull from the shelves. We found Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel. Curious George. Where the Wild Things Are. The Story of Ferdinand. And so many more! These paperbacks were in great condition, and he was delighted with how many we found hidden among the bigger hardcovers. He left the store with nearly a dozen classic kids illustrated books for a great price. 

Just before the start of school, a teacher told me she’d just switched grades and wanted to stock her shelves with books for 2nd and 3rd grade. Together we found stacks of used chapter books, and she was able to really stretch her budget. 

Often I hear parents give a dollar limit to how much their kids can hope to spend on books, and many times they come to the counter with several used copies, rather than just one or two. Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Rick Riordan, Dork Diaries, Last Kids on Earth, Roald Dahl - it’s a great strategy when kids are reading through series so quickly.

But the flip side is maybe even more fun. When a customer arrives for their appointment to sell used books, it’s exciting to see bags full of kids titles. We have to be sure they are in pretty good condition for resale and that can be trickier for children’s books, but so many of them look nearly brand new. Then up at the counter, I will often be able to sell a young customer a stack of books - often used - and apply both their 10% discount for that day as well as their earned used book credit for those we were able to take. 

As a parent myself, and one who loved both going to the library as well as having books on our bookshelves, this just works out to keeping kids reading and having fun while not breaking the piggy bank.