Teaching elementary students to become familiar with the library and how to use it properly is a skill that will be valuable throughout their lives. Whether they use it for reading pleasure or for completing research for assignments, they benefit from knowing their way around the library as long as they are in school and beyond. From the early grades, use activities to show students where to find materials and teach them the structure of a library in a child-friendly way.

Map The Library

Use drawing paper and pencils to map the school library to familiarize students with the layout of the library they use the most. Stage the lesson in the library and ask the students to draw an outline of the library, including bookshelves, desks and other objects in the room. Once the outline of the map is complete, they can begin writing in the names of the sections to identify which kinds of books are stored in particular locations. They may have to physically locate the sections to properly mark the map, giving the students first-hand knowledge of the library layout.


Alphabetizing is a basic skill necessary to locate books in the library. Many books are arranged by author name in their respective sections. Assuming the students have a firm grasp of the alphabet, they can practice arranging books in alphabetical order by the author's last name. Give each child a stack of 10 books by various authors and let them stack the books in a pile or on a shelf in the proper order. This practice makes them faster at locating the items they are seeking out in the library.

Dewey Decimal

Teach students the difference between fiction and non-fiction. Give them background on Melvil Dewey, the librarian who created the Dewey decimal system. This universal system is used to arrange non-fiction books in almost any library. Finally, explain the numbering system of 10 non-fiction and fiction categories that range from the 000 Computer Science categories to the 900 history categories. They will become familiar with the card catalogue and the numbering system to find non-fiction titles.

Scavenger Hunt

Let the students have some fun with the library and discourage the notion that it is a boring place that can't be enjoyed. Make cards that include basic information on a certain book and let the children draw one. When they collect the correct books, have them place it in their stack and draw another card. See which student can find the most books in 15 minutes. Cards can indicate specific titles, authors or Dewey clues like, "Find a book on geography."

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