How to Host a Book Swap

Last year a pair of second graders, Cianna and Laura, came to me with a proposal. “Ms. Potoma, we would like to have a book swap.”


“Great,” I said, “What’s a book swap?”

“Well, we did some research…” they said. And, boy did they do their research. They had a folder with print outs, mockups for posters, and all the ‘how to’ information one would need on how to run a book swap.

“Wow,” I said. “You really put some thought into this.”

“Yes!” they said, beaming from ear to ear. I knew what was coming next. “We would like you to run it!”

“Ladies,” I said taking in a big breath, “It’s May 30th. We only have two weeks of school left before summer vacation.”

They had planned for this reaction. “Oh, that’s okay, we can do it next year!”

How does one say no to such exuberance?

“Okay,” I said, “How about November?”


Fast forward to November 1. Cianna and Laura peek their head in the door. “It’s November 1st, Ms. Potoma!”

I had to laugh. “Yes it is, and the wheels are in motion.”

What is a Book Swap?

Each student brings in up to 10, picture books, chapter books or non-fiction books. They get a ticket for each type of book they bring in. Then, they swap 1 for 1. It’s really that simple.


Lots of kids have a pile of books in their bedroom that they’ve already read, and would love the opportunity to switch them out for something new. A book swap is a great way to get new books into kids hands, without spending any money.

Who can do a Book Swap?

Anybody! It’s not too hard to put together. Now, I am the librarian at my school, so I seemed a natural choice for hosting. However, homeroom teachers could easily put one together, parents, principals, or even kids!

Some considerations if you would like to host a book swap.

  • Set a limit on how many books each kid can swap. My limit was 10, but I’ve seen online up to 15.
  • Books should be age appropriate. I am hosting for grades Kindergarten thru 5th grade, so picture books and chapter books worked best. I discouraged students from bringing in board books or adult books. The idea is to get an even swap.
  • If they bring in a picture book, they swap for a picture book. Chapter book for chapter book. This ensures that there are enough books to go around.
  • Make sure the books are in gently used condition. No one wants a book with pages falling out, or that has fallen in a puddle.
  • Books should be free of writing or coloring. Coloring books, activity books and sticker books would not be an appropriate trade.

How to collect books?

Have students bring in their books for trade the day before the actual swap so that they can be checked and organized. I had them fill out a paper as well with their name, grade level, and how many of each kind of book they brought to swap.

On the day of the swap.

Every student gets a ticket for every book they brought to swap. I colored coded: red for picture books, blue for chapter books and green for non-fiction to make it a little easier for them to find the right table.

I advised students to slide the ticket in the top of the book once they had chosen. This makes it easier to keep track of things when they are ‘checking out’.


After the swap.

It is entirely possible that you will end up with books left over. Truth be told, I did supplement the tables a little bit with books that had been donated to the library and were sitting in my “to shelve or not to shelve” pile. If there are books left over, you can donate them to the library, or homeroom teachers who always need fresh books in their classroom libraries. You could even raffle them off to make a little extra money for your favorite organization.

Overall, the book swap was a success! Cianna and Laura were over the moon. They enjoyed coming down to the library during their snack time and recess to straighten out the books and hand out tickets. I wouldn’t be surprised if a week from now, they pop their heads in my door and say, “So, Ms. Potoma, when can we have the next one?”

SFS Christmas Cover Web Nov14Alison has a new Smith Family Secret chapter book available on for the Holidays!

The Smith Family Secret: Christmas Wishes by Alison Potoma


  1. Alison, this is a great post. I’ve done a book swap at the end of the year with my fourth graders. I let kids exchange any book for any other, even if it was a different genre. Sometimes the 4th grader wanted a picture book for his/her sibling. I started collecting books at least a week before the actual swap so they didn’t come in all at once. I also added some of my books into the mix and through a “Chance” drawing was able to offer books to those who would have loved a book but didn’t have any to bring. Book swaps are a wonderful way to excite readers about books.


    1. Carol, I love the idea of a “Chance” drawing, so that kids still have an opportunity to get a book. I also had several students come with books to exchange for their little brothers/sisters. My students had such a great time at the book swap, and I’m sure your fourth graders did as well!


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