Finding your way around a library can be confusing, even for adults. With thousands upon thousands of books, it sometimes seems impossible to find the information you need. For this reason, it is important to give kids an early start learning how to look up information, especially when paper books are losing ground to computers and the Internet. Help children get oriented in the library with a variety of activities that might help them become lifetime lovers of books.
Getting to Know the Sections
Children's libraries are usually divided into sections. These can include fiction, non-fiction, biography and picture books. For very young children, it is important to help them get to know where these sections are in the library so they can browse with ease. Start young children off with a simple activity. Ask them to find one book from each section you are teaching them about. Let them know that it's not a race and that they should try to find books that look interesting to them. Have them go off in search of books and then reassemble to discuss where the sections are.
Learning to Find Specific Books
Just as important as knowing the sections in a library is knowing the basic skills for finding a specific book on the shelf. Do an activity that helps students locate important information on the spine of a book. Assemble your students in a group and show them where to find the book's title, the name of the author and the call number. Send students off to find one book. Give them each a slip of paper and have them copy down this important information.
Library Scavenger Hunt
For older kids who might already be familiar with library basics, organize a scavenger hunt to take them to the next level of library orientation. Give them a list with various elements on it. You might include such things as a book published before 1950, a biography of a famous person, or a novel by someone whose name starts with the same letter as their own name. Have students circulate through the library and copy down the information on the sheet. You can have a prize for the first person to complete the sheet.
Short Research Project
Ultimately, students need to learn to use the library for specific academic needs. Choose a category for short research projects, such as countries of the world or famous politicians. Write down names or topics that fit the category and assign one randomly to each student. Go to the library and have each student research some basic information about his topic, such as date of birth and country of origin if his topic is a person. Ask each student to write a short paragraph or two about his topic and hand it in.
David Coodin began working as a writer in 2005, and has been published in "The Walrus." He contributes to various websites, writing primarily in the areas of education and art. Coodin holds a Ph.D. in English literature from York University in Toronto.