Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Books For Less Than Full Price In My Little Corner Of Southern Italy...

What do you do when your kids lean towards the language not being spoken in the country within which you live? Well, you go into research mode to discover what options you have in offering your kids all possible available resources to gain a better balance in the two (or more) languages he knows. Namely, two good resources are books and dvds.

I have had such a situation. I have been in research mode, and I am glad for some of my discoveries on where to find less than full price books. It has not been easy. Books are very expensive in Italy if you buy them full price in a bookstore, and I prefer to hunt for deals if I possibly can. Problem is, places like yard sales, thrift stores, flea markets, consignment shops, and the like are not available options here- at least here in the South of Italy. I do not know about up North. I am basing my findings on what I know of where I live. So, I have been on a quest to see where I can find cheaper books to add to our scantily supplied Italian library section. We have a lot in English; well, enough for now. ;-)

Ideas For Obtaining Books

1) The Bookstores DO sometimes have deals. For example, I found a rack of Disney story books for two for 4 euro 90 cents (E4.90). But more often than not, I have had to pay full price. I was told that there is not a huge following of book readers in Italy these days. Sad, isn't it? Bookstores suffer for that, obviously, and probably charge more because they have to make up for the difference of not selling a lot. Especially in small towns like the one in which I live and other small towns surrounding us.

2) Used Bookstores do exist here. The issue is that they concentrate mostly on the buying and selling of used SCHOOLBOOKS. They apparently DO have sections of literature for pleasure-reading, but at normal cost.

3) The Library... Now, I have not even been to the library here, though we have lived here for 7 1/2 years now. I have not made it there because I did not drive here at first, and I just recently got my license. Aside from that, I have had reports from others that a lot of libraries here in Southern Italy concentrate, again, on providing information for school purposes. I believe I found recent information, though, that some areas are beginning to provide a small area of children's books. They are only books that are to remain within the library, from what I have heard. At least that was what a friend said of school books. So, that would not be much fun to have to keep going back just to finish a book. I am not a fan of "cliffhangars". :-)

4) Check to see if the school near you has a book library. Ours is trying to also build up its supply. And, they just recently offered to have Wednesday evenings open for kids to come and have free reading time. Books have to remain there. My kids have not been able to go, but at least that is a possiblity.

5) I sent a text message to family and friends stating that I was on the lookout for used books. I asked if they could offer any tips on places I could look. From that phone call, two friends with grown children offered their books to us. Some people have them in storage unused for so long that it is a relief to find someone who can put them to good use. One lady even joked that she was considering burning them to get them out of the way. (A lot of Italians here in the South still utilize wood burning fireplaces, not oil or gas, that offer heat, hot water and the like. Not all but some of us. So while it is a sickening thought for me to hear of books being burned, it is practical in the minds of some people.) Anyway, I was horrified at the idea (actually had heart palpitations), and said I would be only too glad to take them. They ended up being lovely, oversized, and very interesting board books. I love them!

6) There is a consignment-like store called the Mercatino Del Usato.It is one of my most favorite places to go, as it is the closest I can get to a yard sale where I live. I have found some really neat deals. I found a classic version of Little Men (Piccoli Uomino by Louisa May Alcott) in Italian for 3 Euro. I found a copy of Captains Courageous (Capitani Coragiosi) for 1 Euro. But, many times the selection is scanty or not what I lean towards. There are lots of different kinds of items for sale, and sometimes even a useful movie or educational dvd can be found (sometimes with English and Italian audio and subtitles).

7) Italy is known for its open air markets (il Mercato). Well, there is sometimes a man there who sells book from a little table or out of his car. Oftentimes, I am told, the books he sells are those that did not sell well in a bookstore. I found some really good deals there. For example, I got Sherlock Holmes and another classic (in Italian) for 3 euro each. I found a book of simple, good-for-children poems for 2 euro, and I have been enjoying reading it myself. :-)

8) I was thinking of having a Book-themed birthday party! That might be an easy way to encourage people to think about giving books as gifts. Although, not all are book lovers and may not understand the point.

9) Make your own books!! I made one in elementary school. It was a Book Of Me, and it was fun and fairly easy to make, and a great memory-making time. Here is an idea by Bringing Up Baby Bilingual on the very topic of creating your own books. I think it is brilliant, personal, and such a unique idea. Love it!

10)Don't forget to utilize older school books!!! I still have all the books of my older kids from when they were in early elementary school (here in Italy), and they are a great source for age appropriate stories, poems, rhymes, fables and such that my kids can read and memorize.

11) Sometimes there will be special educating events at the school: programs to encourage good eating habits, how to handle a lice outbreak, the importance of exercise, etc... These pamphlets or mini books are worth keeping to have handily around. The point is to keep whatever is in the language you need, so that if you have a good selection for the kids to route through, they will eventualy find something they are interested in flipping through, reading, or skimming. The point is to get their attention TO reading.

12)Keep an eye out for book giveaways. Frankly, I have found more English sites that use this method to draw in customers or attention, but I did find this site in Italian. They is a bookstore in Rome called :Centostorie Libreria Per Bambini that utilizes an occasional book giveaway to draw people in. Smart, don't you think? :-) I am all for it.

13) Edicolas are the indoor newstands. They sometimes have books for sale. They oftentimes are more reasonable than buying at a normal bookstore. They also sell some dvds, some in magazine/dvd sets. I bought a David and Goliath puzzle book a few years back for around 5 euro, for example. Then, just the other week, I found a pack of coloring books that had been celophaned together with a dvd of a cheaply made version of Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs, all for a little under 5 euro. The coloring books are great. And whether or not I decide to keep the dvd, the coloring books were so worth the price paid.

14) Coloring books! Some have simple words already printed within, some have brain teasing activities, and some have words and stickers combined. You can also ADD words to a wordless coloring book, so as to practice vocabulary in a visual way.

15) This idea came to me out of desperation, actually. I have a good selection of books in English, but our selection of Italian books is just being built up. Since they cost so much, I began really brainstorming how I can make this quest for books a little more cost effective. That is when this idea popped into my brain. I called a girlfriend who knows both Italian and English and has done some translations herself. I asked her if she would be willing to help me translate our easy-to-read children's books, for now, into Italian, so we can have bilingual books!!! By creating bilingual books, you save on money, both translations can be put on a page so as to follow easily, and you will have a good selection of books you that you know you love- but in two languages instead of just one. Hah!

16) In the United States, keep an eye out at yard sales, thrift stores, flea markets, book sales, etc... for foreign books. You just may find some neat treasures. My mom actually found a book for kids in Italian at a yard sale. It ended up being a book by Mick Inkpen, creator of Kipper. Cute!

This is my list, for now. I do have good news. All of my efforts to build up our Italian library book supply have had superb results, and I am pleased to report that my kids have been building good habits of reaching for a book to browse through or read a chapter out of. I am so very glad. This journey to teaching my kids to love to read in two languages may have some interesting moments, but it is so worth it.

Happy hunting! And let me know if you have any other ideas to add to my list!!! :-)


  1. Hi! Thank you for your comment on my blog. I've asked my Italian friends and will let you know if they can recommend good books, dvds, films or other resources in Italian. I'll add your blog to my blogroll. Best regards from Barcelona (by the way, there are many Italian people living here:)).

  2. It is a pleasure to "meet" you. :-) Thank you for adding me to your blog roll. I will do the same for you. I have spanish in my background, and some of my kids really want to learn, so any information is useful. Thank you also for asking around for me. I really appreciate that. Have a great day!!

    By the way, my parents came to visit us in September 2010, and they purosely made a stopover in Barcelona. They loved it, and I hope to one day make it there myself. Thanks for your tips on traveling there with kids. I hope to use that info soon. Hahahah... :-)

  3. Thanks for your comment on my blog and for linking to my book post! I'll add your site to my blogroll too.

    I had no idea that books were pricey in Italy--how dreadful for a parent. It sounds like you've managed to figure out how to grow your home library, though--bravo!

    Is there an eBay Italy site? I have found sets of used books quite inexpensively that way (and in the US, you can mail books "media rate" for cheap).

    Here are some websites that offer books in many languages for free:


  4. Thank you so much for coming by and for offering to add me to your blogroll!!! Well, it is certainly dreadful for the parent that cares. Yes. I believe there is eBay Italy. Thank you so much for the link! Have a wonderful day!!

  5. There are so many places on the internet to read free e-books or texts, some very well known and many classics. Adults or kids. For kids, you can find Jules Verne and others like that. Gutenburg ( http://www.gutenberg.org/wiki/Main_Page ), Google Books ( http://books.google.com/ebooks ) to name two off the top of my head. Go to google and type in free books, free ebooks, online books, online ebooks, etexts, etc - you get the idea I'm sure. They can be saved as texts, word docs, pdf's, html or may have their own reader software, which also should be free. The free ones may be mixed in with those that have a fee, which are usually newer books or best sellers.