Supporting Children’s Literacy by Understanding and Using the Library
Children’s access to a wide range of books is a major factor in supporting their literacy development and what better place to begin than your local library. This may be the local school or town library, or, if you live remotely, may take the form of a regional library that supports your area by: regular visits, or placement of books and other resources in a community centre to be accessed by members of the public, or distance or online membership by which you can borrow books and other resources.
Children are never too young to join a library and will be most comfortable in using a library effectively if they understand how the collection of books, documents, DVDs, electronic resources etc is arranged and how to find what they are looking for. Even the youngest child can make a selection of books, both fiction and non-fiction, that appeal to him/her and should be encouraged to do so.
The classification of books and resources in a library provides a system for organising the knowledge they contain. The Dewey Decimal Classification system is the one most widely used across the world. It was first developed by Melvil Dewey in 1873 and was first published in 1876. It is being revised continuously to keep pace with the growth in knowledge. While schools generally teach children about the arrangement of books in a library, parents can reinforce this knowledge too.
There are ten main classes that cover the entire world of knowledge.
000 – computer science, information and general works
100 – philosophy and psychology
200 – religion
300 – social sciences
400 – languages
500 – science
600 – technology
700 – arts and recreation
800 – literature
900 – history and geography
Each of these classes is further arranged into ten divisions.
For example the 500 section of the library contains all the resources pertaining to Science, which includes Mathematics.
500-509 – Science
510-519 – Mathematics
520-529 – Astronomy
530-539 – Physics
540-549 – Chemistry
550-559 – Earth sciences and geology
560 -569 – Fossils and prehistoric life
570-579 – Biology
580-589 – Plants
590-599 – Animals (Zoology)
Each of these divisions has ten sections to cater for all of the specific topics within that division.
For example the 590-599 division is broken down into the following sections:
590 – animals
591 – specific topics in natural history of animals
592 – invertebrates – animals with no backbone
593 – miscellaneous marine and seashore invertebrates
594 – mollusca and molluscoidea – eg snails, slugs, squid
595 – arthropoda eg insects, spiders
596 – chordata eg fish, amphibians
597 – cold-blooded vertebrates eg snakes
598 – birds
599 – mammals
A list of all of the divisions and sections may be found on a number of websites including https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Dewey_Decimal_classes
These sections are further broken down using decimals. For example, 599.8 deals with primates and 599.85 deals specifically with howler monkeys and other new world monkeys.
The Dewey Decimal Classification system is arranged by discipline not subject. So, resources related to one subject may be found in several sections of the library.
For example, if your child is looking for resources related to “clothing”, these might be found in: the 391 section (costume and personal appearance); 646 (sewing and clothing) and the 746 section (textile arts).
Every book or resource in a library has a call number, which for non-fiction books includes the Dewey Decimal Classification number plus the first three letters of the creator’s surname (usually the author).
The book entitled Howler Monkeys, written by John Manefield would have the call number
Fiction books are usually classified as E for easy (preschool and early years of school), JF for junior fiction (middle primary school years) and F for senior fiction, then include the first three letters of creator’s surname (usually the author, sometimes the illustrator).
|Blue Moon Mountain by Geraldine McCaughrean would have the call number:||
|The Enid Blyton Book of Fairies by Enid Blyton would have the call number:||
|Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery would have the call number:||
Usually easy books are arranged on stands so young children can see the front covers of many books and easily browse through them. For junior and senior fiction, the books in each section are arranged in alphabetical order using the first three letters of authors’ surnames.
Other sections that your children may find useful for reading or research include:
- Reference books, such as encyclopaedias, that are usually located in a special section of the library and may not be borrowed but only be used while you are in the library.
- Audio-visual resources eg DVDs, CDs etc
- Local history resources – some libraries have these
- Newspapers and magazines
- A bank of computers for locating and reading online books and documents – not usually borrowed but used by visitors to the library
- Photocopying facilities for copying allowable sections of books or other documents
- Educational games and toys – some libraries have these
Many libraries arrange special activities for children during the school vacation periods. If possible, facilitate your children’s involvement in these too.
Your children need to see their parents as readers and users of the library as well. Parents can set an excellent example by arranging family visits to the library with their children. Spend time there browsing and reading, reinforcing the purposes of libraries: to provide excellent resources that promote reading, research and study and to provide quiet spaces for reading, research and study. By your own example you are encouraging your children to be lifelong lovers of reading and users of libraries.