Books over Candy this Halloween Season??!

Here’s an idea for you this Halloween season :)

Give children *books* during trick or treating instead of candy!

An initiative started by because “books feed children’s minds, while candy only feeds their cavities”, haha… All the dentists and librarians in the house stand up!

Here’s the origin of it:

Books For Treats founder Rebecca Morgan began offering books to her ghouls and goblins at her home in Willow Glen (San Jose, CA) in 1995. She was frustrated at candy being the primary option for Halloween treats. She wanted an inexpensive treat the kids would like. She knew she could opt for small toys, but she wanted something that would make a difference to the kids and last more than a few days.

At her local library book sale Rebecca saw the boxes of gently read children’s books for about what she was spending on candy. Aha!… She bought dozens of books covering toddlers to sixth grade, sorted them by grade level and let her trick-or-treaters choose from among the age-appropriate books…

After 6 years, she saw the response was so overwhelmingly positive, Morgan decided to take the concept beyond her home and to the community. She started Books For Treats in 2001 to begin to turn the tide from problematic candy to a treat…

This movement has spread from her San José community to many others around the US and Canada. Books For Treats was recently given non-profit status so tax-deductible donations can now be used to help spread the word and assist other communities in starting a Books For Treats event.

Pretty brilliant, right? Kids LOVE reading books, and even if you get an eye roll or two it’s not like it’s a huge deal missing out on a couple pieces of candy when you’re getting 800 others that night! Haha…

So yeah – I’m going to give it a try this year!! Though maybe start out smaller and go for 1/2 candy, 1/2 books and let them decide? And then go full throttle *next year* if it works out nicely?

This would give you a lot more time too to *find* the books, instead of having to rush around last minute scrambling for deals… I reckon it’ll cost a little more than you’d normally pony up grabbing some candy, but if you know where to look it doesn’t have to be too much more.

Here are a few places you could easily score them on the cheap:

  • Your book shelves (FREE!)
  • Your friends’ book shelves! (Everyone has books they can get rid of!)
  • Thrift stores ($0.50-$2.00/ea usually)
  • Yard sales (usually $0.25-$0.50/piece)
  • Library sales
  • Scholastic ($1.00 books – see note in the comments from Rebecca)
  • Bulk places (<— need to research this one still… If you can find a book you think *ALL KIDS* will love, maybe you could just order like 50 or 100 of them in one sitting and call it a day?)

Lots of places you can score gently used books if you pay attention enough throughout the year…

Oh – and yeah, Books For Treats recommends gently used books over new ones since it’s better for our planet. Though really ANY great books would do. Even personal finance ones – *gasp*! Maybe like Three Cups as we mentioned earlier on the blog, or Money A to Z* from financial rock star and podcaster Scott Alan Turner? Who then donates 100% of the proceeds to various children’s charities thereby *doubling* the wins? :)

Lots of ideas, but first we give it a shot and see what happens!! Two full weeks to start searching and building up that stockpile – I’ll let you know how it goes!

Here’s more from Books For Treats if you’re interested in participating too… And I’m not getting paid to share any of this btw, just a new fan and lover of theirs!

Who’s with me??

books dancing gif

*Link to Money A to Z above is an Amazon affiliate link
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  1. Kari October 18, 2019 at 8:27 AM

    Jay, this is such a cool idea! My first thought was ‘this is going to be expensive!’ But you’re right, I could probably get 30 books off my kids’ shelves that they’re done with. And our local library does sell off old books from time to time. The school librarian also culls her books too.

    1. J. Money October 18, 2019 at 9:54 AM

      Let me know what happens if you try it!! :)

  2. Andrea October 18, 2019 at 9:09 AM

    NOOOooooooo…….!!!!! Waaaahhhhhh…….! Unless they’re COMIC books! Ha! Maybe I’m out of touch, but……Halloween is is not necessarily about the “prize.” In our house it was all about dressing up and running around the neighborhood collecting up a pillowcase full of cr**, er…. candy, and staying up past bedtime on a school night! Do you remember being maybe 10 or 12 years old and seeing how many houses your could make it to?? How full you could fill your pillowcase?? After just 5 or 10 houses, that pillow sack is going to be h-e-a-v-y to schlep to the next 50 stops! And full of books, no less! Ha! I vote to keep Halloween fun & silly! Just my two cents……

    1. J. Money October 18, 2019 at 9:56 AM

      Haha… You can still do all of that with this plan!! It’s just one extra book to help make those pillow cases heavier! ;) And comic books is an even better idea!! Maybe the teens won’t egg your house later on…

  3. Joe October 18, 2019 at 10:13 AM

    This year, I’ll give out Red Bull and Gummy bears. Good luck parents…
    Just kidding.
    Giving books is a great idea. Try it out and let us know. We have a ton of old comic books that can go.

    1. J. Money October 18, 2019 at 3:25 PM

      Red Bulls would get pretty expensive!! :)

  4. Financially Fit Mom October 18, 2019 at 11:37 AM

    This is great idea….I got another one for you…different angle obviously!

    My friends started this a few years ago and it’s become a fun tradition. They call it Sugar & Shots and there is the traditional bowl of candy for the kiddos but we also set up a table and firepit in the driveway and have a couple pitchers of premade Halloween themed cocktails, and a couple beer/wine selections available for the adults. In just the 3 years I’ve been participating, it’s incredible to see the neighbors who plan their routes around our house (I have no doubt there are probably some that plan their route away from us too – that’s ok).

    Apart from the tiny drinks, it’s fun to see the community built. Sure, the kids are eager to move to the next house, but this simple act, even for those who stop by but opt out of the adult treat, will linger an extra few minutes just to chat a little.

    1. J. Money October 18, 2019 at 3:27 PM

      AHHHHH yes please!!!!

      Fantastic idea!!!! Makes the parents just as excited – if not more! – to hurry up and go out there! Haha… free drinks always taste better than paid ones! :)

  5. lisa October 18, 2019 at 11:38 AM

    When I was a kid, there was a lady that gave out comic books. Loved that.

    I’ve been known to save the toys/books from cereal boxes and hand them out as my kids ate a ton of cereal but didn’t want the prize.

    I thought I was being smart by going to the bank to get those $1 golden coins to hand out. The neighbors’ grandkids loved them. One little boy refused to leave my porch until I gave him candy. I said, “Where’s your mother?!” I finally shut the door on him because he kept arguing for candy.

    1. J. Money October 18, 2019 at 3:29 PM


      Those $1 coins would be perfect for Halloween :) And for the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy too!! You might even turn them into coin collectors which of course trumps everything!

  6. Rebecca Morgan October 18, 2019 at 1:48 PM


    Thank you for the great article! We appreciate your helping spread the word about Books for Treats!

    In addition to the book resources you’ve mention, Scholastic offers $1 books. And if you’re doing a community event, you can order books at 55 cents each (when buying by the carton) by going through Books for Treats. Contact me if you need more info.

    Kids — and their parents — love Books for Treats.

    1. J. Money October 18, 2019 at 3:29 PM

      Heyyyy very cool!

      Will go back and update that in the list of places – thanks!

      And 1,000% love what you’re doing over there, of course.

      Such a great idea – thank you!! :)

  7. Jennifer Cook October 19, 2019 at 10:39 PM

    Oy vey

  8. Maianne October 25, 2019 at 5:46 PM

    We’ve been doing this for 5 years.
    Diamond (one of the main comic book distributors) puts out special Halloween mini comics that are geared towards kids. We have a sign in our window that’s says we have “Comics Not Candy.” Parents love it, kids love it, and the ones that just want candy skip our house.

    This year we are switching it up a bit. We’re doing sheets of stickers (because our local shop ran out of the Halloween comic packs early). The sign will probably say something about sticky fingers.

    1. J. Money October 28, 2019 at 6:27 AM

      Stickers!!!! Another awesome idea!!! Kids love stickers!! :)