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The 2016 National Back-To-School Guide: Free Resources for Students & Teachers

2016 National Back To School Guide

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Adam West
By: Adam West
Updated: October 17, 2018

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A new school year means fresh starts and blank sheets of notebook paper. It’s when sun-tanned students return to their books and try to remember what it’s like to stay indoors and study. It’s also perhaps one of the rare times when students and teachers are on the exact same page — in need of affordable school supplies.

When August looms on the horizon of summer fun, it’s time to start buying paper, folders, backpacks, and other school-time essentials. All this can quickly add up for students and teachers, but not if they know what free resources are available.

Below we’ve categorized 61 national and local organizations that offer free school supplies, lunch programs, online printables, back-to-school advice, scholarships, grants, and other supportive materials. Teachers, click here to jump down to our Free Resources for Teachers section. Students, read on and study up!

Free Resources: Student Edition

On average, sending a K-12 student back to school costs about $100 in school supplies alone, so snagging free backpacks, notebooks, and other necessary items can make attending school much more affordable. The resources we’ve listed below are an excellent place to start your back-to-school shopping.

Kids raising their hands in class

Many non-profit organizations help K-12 students by donating or supplying all they need to learn and grow.

Raise your hand if you’re ready to start browsing and learning! To jump ahead of the class to specific student resources, use the links below for the different categories we have to offer.

Free School Supplies for Students

School supplies are important — and not just because a kindergartner’s social worth is measured by how many crayons he or she has. Not having something to write with or something to write on can seriously impede a student’s education. No one wants to start off the school year less prepared than their peers.

Here are 8 national and local organizations that provide free school supplies for underprivileged students:

Organization Mission Resources Contact Information
The Salvation Army Provides hunger relief, housing & homeless services and emergency disaster relief Back-to-School Supply Drive Tel: 1-(800) 323-9084
Boys & Girls Clubs of America Fosters life-enhancing and skill-building programs for boys and girls in the U.S. Back-to-School Campaign Tel: (404) 487-5700
First Book Distributes millions of books and educational resources to programs and schools Access to New Books  Tel: (866) READ-NOW
Voice 4 Nations Combats homelessness, contaminated water, and bullying Operation Give Back  Tel: (866) 597-4700
Back-to-School Roundup Offers school supplies to underserved students and families in Tarrant County, Texas Pre-Registration Tel: (817) 754-0227
Kids in Need Foundation Ensures that kids are prepared for school with all the supplies they need School-Ready Supplies info@kinf.org
Operation Homefront Assists service members, wounded warriors, and families; hosts a nationwide school-supply collection campaign annually Back-to-School Brigade Tel: (210) 549-4600
Alameda Education Foundation Gives K-12 students from low-income households school supplies and new backpacks Equipped 4 Success Tel: (510) 337-7189

All these charitable groups are dedicated to helping underprivileged students prep for school with programs offering free supplies.

Free Back-To-School Clothes for Students

We’ve put together a list of 4 local foundations and national organizations that offer free back-to-school clothes and uniforms to eligible students. Some host annual charity-sponsored drives while others collect donations all year round.

Organization Mission Resources Contact Information
Back-to-School Clothing Drive Arizona’s oldest and largest distributor of school uniforms, backpacks, and school supplies to students attending Title 1 elementary schools School Uniform Programs info@btscd.com
Treehouse for Kids Gives foster kids in WA access to the resources and support systems they need in order to graduate from high school Academic Programs Tel: (206) 767-7000
Back-to-School Clothes for Kids Offers new school clothing to needy children in Westchester and the Bronx New School Clothing Tel: (914) 576-6053
Citizens Caring for Children Supports foster kids in Oklahoma by meeting their material, emotional, and intellectual needs Back-to-School Program Tel: (405) 753-4099

These groups will quickly have students dressed to impress — without a high price tag.

Free Lunch Programs for Students

Buying lunch every day for the whole school year can take a toll on financially struggling families, so the following 3 national school lunch (and breakfast) programs provide free or low-cost meals to eligible students.

Organization Mission Resources Contact Information
United States Department of Agriculture Funds a federally assisted meal program that gives nutritional and low-cost or free lunches to children each school day National School Lunch Program By State
Food Research & Action Center Provides a fresh fruit or vegetable snack to all students in participating schools; encouraging healthier school environments National Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program Tel: (202) 986-2200
Feeding America Reduces child hunger, promotes good nutrition, and provides nutritionally balanced food each school day School Breakfast Program Tel: (800) 771-2303

These charitable groups serve a vital role in the U.S. education system. When you feed your brain, you’ll be ready for whatever your teachers can throw at you.

Free Scholarships & Programs for Students

Certain organizations and associations offer scholarships and mentoring programs to promising young students, helping the next generation make their academic dreams a reality. Online, you can find a world of opportunity for growth and support. Eligible students have the chance to earn thousands of dollars to advance their future education.

Organization Mission Resources Contact Information
The National Society of High School Scholars Supports the development of scholars in ethical action, service leadership and pursuit of academic excellence Scholarship Opportunities Tel: (866) 343-1800
The NEA Foundation Provides grants to foster problem solving and critical thinking in students at U.S. public schools and higher education Student Achievement Grants Tel: (202) 822-7840
Step Up for Students Alleviates the educational challenges faced by Floridian children who live in or near poverty Income-based & Special Needs Scholarships Tel: (877) 735-7837
Sponsors for Educational Opportunity A free 8-year program in NYC and San Francisco that helps over 700 public high school students get to and through college SEO Scholars Program seoscholars@seo-usa.org
Reading is Fundamental Provides free books and literacy resources to children and their families, motivating kids to read more Books for Ownership Tel: 1-(877)-RIF-READ
Schools on Wheels Enhances educational opportunities for homeless K-12 kids; provides them with the highest level of education possible Academic and B.U.S. Programs Tel: (805) 641-1678
Military Child Education Coalition Serves as a model for positive leadership and ensures quality educational opportunities for military-connected kids Scholarships & Programs Tel: (254) 953-1923

High-achieving and hard-working students will find plenty of opportunity for success with the financial support of these scholarships and learning programs. Most have specific requirements, so be sure to read carefully through the description before applying.

Helpful Back-to-School Advice for Students

Heading back to school can be a rough transition for students as well as parents. Here are some beneficial articles and guides on how students can tackle common back-to-school issues. For parents who want to get their kids off on the right foot and for students in need of a quick refresher before the first day of school, these 6 resources have wonderful free advice.

Organization Mission Resources Contact Information
Understood.org Helps millions of parents whose children (ages 3-20) struggle with learning and attention issues School & Learning Articles support@understood.org
National Parent Teacher Association Engages and empowers families to advocate for all children so that they may reach their potential Parents’ Guides to Student Success Tel: (703) 518-1200
National Association of School Psychologists Assists school psychologists by advancing effective practices to improve students’ learning, behavior, and mental health Back-to-School Guides for Families Tel: (301) 657-0270
National Association for Gifted Children Develops policies and practices that stimulate, support, and challenge gifted students Back-to-School Resource Roundup Tel: (202) 785-4268
School Family Provides parents with expert insight on how their kids can make the most of their school year Articles, Blog, Quizzes & Printables info@schoolfamily.com
GreatKids! Offers invaluable content and tools for  parents raising kids from preschool to 12th grade Back-to-School Lists & Articles help@greatschools.org

Just because it’s summer, doesn’t mean your kids should stop learning and growing — parents can help their kids stay sharp by having access to age-appropriate learning materials. Whether you’re a student looking for academic prep materials or a parent in need of tips on back-to-school shopping, you’ll find many websites greatly beneficial to students readying for the fall.

Free Online Resources for Students

To help students excel starting from the first day of school and beyond, these 7 organizations provide free worksheets, learning tools, and other printables on various subjects and topics. To brush up on school-related material before school actually starts, take a look at these free learning tools.

Organization Mission Resources Contact Information
Edudemic Creates awesome students through expert guides, technological tools, and evidence-driven learning strategies Online Tools & Guides edudemic@gmail.com
Education.com Serves as a digital resource of diverse and high-caliber content for parents, students, and teachers across the country Worksheets & Printables Support Center
Free Software Foundation Promotes the development and use of free software for computer users in schools and homes Free Software info@fsf.org
Shmoop Balances a teen-friendly, approachable style with academically rigorous materials to help students understand why academics matter Learning Guides support@shmoop.com
Reading Rockets Offers information about how young kids learn to read, the challenges of literacy, and how caring adults can help Topics, Strategies & Tip Sheets readingrockets@weta.org
Reading is Fundamental Provides free new books, reading checkups, and other literacy resources to children, encouraging independent reading Literacy Resources 1-(877) RIF-READ
Apache OpenOffice Provides open-source software projects for the public good OpenOffice Software Contact Page

Giving students a great start in school will increase their chances of succeeding in higher education. The folks at The Apache Software Foundation couldn’t agree more. We spoke with project management committee member Rob Weir who said the organization offers free software because they want everyone to have the same opportunity to achieve their academic goals — no matter their income:

“We want to ensure that everyone can have access to this software around the world. Our volunteers are pleased to contribute to that effort.” — Rob Weir, The Apache Software Foundation

So take advantage of these free resources, not only to save money, but to improve every student’s educational experience overall.

Free Resources: Teacher Edition

Sometimes teachers need just as much help as students getting prepped for the first day of school. To help out, we’ve gathered some of the best organizations that give teachers the resources to inspire their students. From supplies to advice, these helpful places on the web will get you ready for the school year.

An apple on a teacher's desk

Teachers can go online to find the resources, supplies, and support they need to help their students reach their potential.

Got something specific in mind? You can use the navigation below to jump down to the category that interests you:

Free School Supplies for Teachers

Teachers don’t just give their time to their students, they often give their own money to make sure their classrooms are as helpful as possible.

In 2013, the Retail Market Awareness Study found that 99.5 percent of all public school teachers spend an average $485 of their own money on school supplies throughout the school year. To give teachers the resources they need at little-to-no cost,  the following 6 organizations provide free classroom supplies.

Organization Mission Resources Contact Information
Classwish Fulfills a teacher’s Wish List by engaging community support around education Classroom Resources feedback@classwish.org
First Book Distributes millions of books and educational resources to programs and schools in need Receive Books for Your Classroom Tel: (866) READ-NOW
A Gift for Teaching Improves public education by providing a surplus of materials free to teachers at high-needs schools A Gift for Teaching Free Stores Tel: (407) 318-3123
Donors Choose Lets donors find worthy causes and projects in schools all over the U.S. Create a Project Donor Contact Form
Supply Our Schools Matches donors with the needs of teachers and students in underprivileged school districts Teacher Registration info@supplyourschools.org
Adopt a Classroom Gives first-year and seasoned teachers a hand by providing necessary classroom materials for art, music, and literacy Connect for Success Tel: (877) 444-7666

The right teaching supplies for your classroom are readily available through the charitable efforts of organizations like these. You don’t have to invest your own hard-earned cash to help your students succeed — simply go online to find a low-cost option.

Free Grants & Programs for Teachers

Great teaching means great research; it doesn’t just happen on its own. That’s why these national organizations and associations help teachers build on their expertise and knowledge base with useful grants and programs that help cover the cost of continuing education. We’ve picked out 7 grant and funding opportunities that can help you become an ever better teacher.

Organization Mission Resources Contact Information
Teach.com Dedicates its education resources to discovering, discussing, and encouraging great teaching around the world Grants for Teachers info@teach.com
TeachersCount Raises the status of the teaching profession and provides resources to the education community Topical Grants for Teachers info@teacherscount.org
Digital Wish Develops new online tools and promotions that enable teachers to get new technology for their classrooms Apply for Grants Tel: (866) 344-7758
National Art Education Association Advances visual arts education to fulfill human potential and promote global enlightenment Grants & Opportunities Tel: (703) 860-8000
The NEA Foundation Provides funding, best-practice ideas, support, and accolades for educators at U.S. public schools and higher education Special Grants to Educators Tel: (202) 822-7840
International Literacy Association A global advocacy organization that publishes cutting-edge research on literacy Awards & Grants for 2015 Tel: (800) 336-7323
National Charter School Resource Center Provides on-demand resources and technical assistance to support high-quality charter schools Upcoming Funding Opportunities Tel: (713) 955-2727

Grants are a great way to further the education and development of teachers in the U.S. If you want to learn how to better serve your students, you might want to consider applying for a grant to support your efforts.

Back-to-School Advice for Teachers

Feeling a little nervous about the first day? Maybe you’re looking to refresh your technique on rewarding good behavior or want to explore new seating arrangements for the classroom.Articles abound with advice and tips to help smooth the back-to-school transition for teachers old and new. These 8 organizations provide excellent strategies and tips for starting off the school year right.

Organization Mission Resources Contact Information
Education World Offers a complete online resource that teachers, administrators, and school staff can use to find original and quality content Tips & Resources Tel: (800) 227-0831
National Education Association Advocates for education professionals and fulfills the promise of public education to prepare every student for the world Advice & Support Tel: (202) 833-4000
Scholastic Encourages intellectual and personal growth of all kids with printable materials and planning tools Teachers Section Tel: 1-(800) SCHOLASTIC
National Association for the Education of Young Children Publishes development resources intended to improve the quality of programs for young kids from birth to age 8 Publications Tel: (202) 232-8777
Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network Focuses on ensuring safe schools for all students of all orientations and backgrounds Educator Resources Tel: (212) 727-0135
Institution of Education Sciences Provides rigorous and relevant evidence on successful educational methods and shares this information with teachers Topics in Education Tel: (212) 727-0135
Teaching Tolerance Leading a discussion with educators who care about tolerance, diversity, equal opportunity, and respect in schools Classroom Resources Tel: (334) 956-8200
Council for Exceptional Children Improves the educational success of individuals with disabilities, gifts, and/or talents Special & Gifted Topics Tel: 1-(888) 232-7733

Teachers interested in improving their teaching methods can peruse articles intended to inform and advise on hot topic areas in education.

Free Online Resources for Teachers

Good teachers are always on the lookout for cheaper ways to incorporate new techniques and technologies in the classroom. These 11 organizations offer free online teaching tools to augment a teacher’s influence on his or her students.

Organization Mission Resources Contact Information
Discovery Education Transforms classrooms and captivates students by leading the way in educational content for grades K-12 Free Teacher Resources Tel: 1-(800) 323-9084
Educents Offers an online marketplace for affordable educational products Freebies for Teachers Tel: 1-(800) 805-8460
International Literacy Association Publishes cutting-edge research on literacy and advocates making literacy accessible across the globe Units & Lesson Plans Tel: (800) 336-7323
National Council of Teachers of English Improves the teaching and learning of English and the language arts at all levels of education Lesson Plans & Teaching Resources Tel: (217) 328-3870
Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools Provides educators, policymakers, and advocates with information they need to increase civic learning in the classroom Lessons Plans & Programs  Tel: (301) 850-7450
Edudemic Connects education with technology by emphasizing how technology positively shapes the educational process Tech & Online Tools Guides  edudemic@gmail.com
Teaching Channel Creates a community where teachers can watch, share, and learn new techniques to help every student grow Videos help@teachingchannel.org
Adolescent Literacy Gives information, strategies, and resources to the parents and educators of struggling adolescents grades 4-12 Resource for Teachers Tel: (703) 998-2600
Edutopia Showcases what works in education so K-12 students can thrive in their studies, careers, and adult lives Over 80 Educational Topics info@edutopia.org
Free Software Foundation Secures freedom for computer users by promoting the development and use of free software Free Software info@fsf.org
Apache OpenOffice Provides open-source software projects for the public good OpenOffice Software Support Forum

These organizations believe teachers should have all the tools they need to make the school year an incredible one for every student under their charge. This idealistic goal is one of the most important components of the International Literacy Association:

“Educators are the foundation of ILA’s literacy mission, which is why we aim to give teachers the tools they need to do their best work in the classroom and their communities.” — Lara DeLoza, International Literacy Association

Groups like the ILA are doing their part, but there’s always more that can be done to promote education in the U.S. If every organization and individual pitches in to help our teachers, the future of education will look even brighter.

Save More When You Head Back to School

Hopefully you broke out your No. 2 pencils and took notes on where to find the best, most affordable school supplies and resources on the web. Students and teachers can take advantage of these outstanding tools so they have all they need to succeed from the first day of school and onward.

Kicking off the school year with confidence is easy when you have donors, nonprofits, and other organizations rooting you on. These foundations offer books, clothes, grants, software, and other resources to make a positive impact on the education of the next generation. Our in-depth 2016 National Guide for Students & Teachers highlights easy ways to save money and prepare to head back to school at the same time. Happy studies!