Reading, Study Skills

Library Skills for Children, by Jane-Emily

When Sandbox to Socrates was in its early days (we are headed toward our SECOND birthday!), contributing author Jane-Emily wrote this guest piece for To the Moon and Back on teaching library skills to children. Because our readership has grown greatly since that time, Dusty, our dear friend and owner of To the Moon and Back, has graciously allowed us to reprint that post here as a refresher for our readers. Jane-Emily gives us great tips on navigating the local library with our children and includes some of her favorite read-aloud books. We hope you enjoy our trip down memory lane.

Your local library is the place to go to find out what you need to know. It’s not only a place to find great books to read–although that is a big part of it and will save you lots of money. The library is where you go to find out:

  • how to care for a new pet
  • what your local government is up to
  • how to fix your car
  • about dealing with legal issues: landlords, local laws, powers of attorney, and authorities
  • about learning a new skill
  • how to garden in your area
  • about local history

There is so much to find out! Learning to use the library is an important skill–both for school and for the rest of your life. I encourage you to take your children to the library often. Let them check out as many books as they can handle, and teach them how to use library resources. Encourage your child to ask the librarians and clerks questions. They are there to help and will always prefer it if the child asks (instead of the parent doing it for the child). Have him learn how to use the library catalog and find books for himself. Familiarity with how libraries work and comfort with asking questions will both be important skills in high school and college. In my experience, third grade is a wonderful age to start exploring the library with intentions to learn more about it–second grade is a little young, but third-graders get very excited. Of course, any age after that is a good time to start! See if you can learn about one new thing every time you go. Some suggestions:

  • First, figure out the children’s room. There will probably be sections for fiction, non-fiction, picture books, and more. Learn where these first three are and what they mean.
  • Is there an area in the children’s room for easy readers? Magazines? Books on CD? What can you find?
  • In the non-fiction section, there will probably be labels for animals, plants, history, and so on. Notice where they are and what they say. The non-fiction books will be arranged by subject in a numbered system called the Dewey Decimal system which is very easy to use. All you do is learn that, say, the books about horses are found at 636.1. Find the 600s and keep going till you get to 636.1. You will find some unexpected things in the non-fiction; fairy tales (398) and comic books (741) are probably in there, as well as poetry!
  • Find the foreign language section in the children’s room. How many languages are represented? Can anyone in your family read any of them? Find a picture book that has text in both English and another language, and take it home to read.
  • In the main part of the library, find the newspapers on microfilm and see how far back the records go. Could you look up newspapers from when Abraham Lincoln was assassinated? How about when the Titanic sank? (For some reason, kids usually know about that one and are impressed.) Look up what happened on the day your child was born! Can you look up the actual birth announcement?
  • In the adult area, see if the fiction is divided up into general fiction, fantasy and science fiction, mysteries, and Westerns. Think of familiar examples of these genres (Nancy Drew, Narnia…what is Star Wars? It has spaceships and the Force…). Do any other genres have their own sections?
  • Find the reference books. Encyclopedias and dictionaries will be there, and so will lots more. Find one really neat reference book to peruse.
  • There might be a local history section, with the more valuable items locked in cases. Take a look!
  • The library probably has displays that change every so often. Find one and see what it is about.
  • Learn how to put a hold on a book and how to request an InterLibrary Loan.
  • If you ask nicely and are lucky, maybe someone will take you in the back to look around. See if you can find the other side of the bookdrop.
  • Does your library have a special lending program for tools, science projects, or some other unexpected category?

I would also like to share some of my favorite read-aloud titles for children. Reading aloud to your child is one of the best things you can do; it brings you closer together and has myriad benefits for your child’s mind. Children can understand much more complex literature than they can read, and this continues to be true right up until about age thirteen. Reading aloud stocks their minds with complex vocabulary, sentence structure, information, and stories that they will remember and draw on for the rest of their lives. These are my favorite titles for children ages 3-6+, with the younger stories at the beginning.

I hope you’ll enjoy exploring the library with your child! As your child gets older, you will want to learn about even more resources the library has to offer, such as databases for research in history, medicine, science, and all academic subjects. Libraries are wonderful resources for our whole lives: armed with nothing more than a curious mind and a library card, we can all learn anything we want to know at any time. To me, this is an amazing and wonderful thing.  

You can read the original post at To the Moon and Back.


Jane-Emily–Jane-Emily is a classically homeschooling LDS mom of two girls, and a librarian at the local community college, very part-time. She loves to read and will pick up almost anything. She also loves to sew and mostly does quilting, heirloom sewing, and smocking. And she’s a Bollywood addict. Jane-Emily is our Webmistress.


2 thoughts on “Library Skills for Children, by Jane-Emily”

  1. “Learn how to put a hold on a book and how to request an InterLibrary Loan” — this is the one my children know best!
    From another library lover,


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