Using the Library and Study Skills

A successful school library is at the centre of a school learning community. School libraries can provide a flexible place for learning where project work, individual study and group research can all take place.
Many schools have specified periods for each class to work in the library, and to give children the opportunity to learn research skills. These periods may be with the class teacher, or with the School Librarian if your school is lucky enough to have one.
Right from Reception class, children should be given the chance to visit the library regularly, and if possible, be allowed to take books home. Classes will, of course, have their own class fiction libraries but these can be somewhat limited. School libraries should always have a fiction section, to ensure children have access to as wide a range of story books as possible. Children can gain so much from re-reading old favourites – for example, reading Winnie-the-Pooh at different ages can open up a whole new world of understanding and enjoyment.
Younger children will love browsing in a ‘Kinderbox’, where they can see the books ‘face on’ – a row of spines can be very bewildering for a young child. Picture books are commonly displayed in this way, but it can also work well for non-fiction and early story books for infant children. Books for younger children are often very thin, and conventional shelving makes it hard to read the title on the spine – and can lead to some very untidy shelves when the children pull the books out! A box of ‘‘big books’ is also a great asset in the library – children love to share these, especially if there is a reading corner with colourful rugs and bean bags. Story sacks are another great way to get children involved in books.                                        
Although there is a wide variation in reading ages and interests, it can be helpful to split the fiction books into infant and junior sections – as long as children always realise that they are completely free to choose from either section.
It is useful to guide children by providing age-appropriate reading lists. These can be used in school and it is valuable to send them home, either to stimulate ideas for holiday reading, or to give parents and grandparents present-buying ideas. There are reading lists for all age groups on Parents in Touch.
Here are some examples of the dozens of reading lists on the site.
World War I book list
Stories for summer
Reading list 8-9
World War II reading list
Of course, children should be encouraged to visit their local public library. Libraries welcome pre-arranged visits from school groups and will arrange for an introduction to the library and all its facilities.
Introduction to library skills
The Dewey system
Dewey classification
Stories or information books?
Finding the book they want
It’s great to have a huge selection of books, but children need to know how to find what they want. Fiction books will almost always be arranged in alphabetical order of the author’s surname. The best way to help children understand this is to relate it to the way their names appear in the class register. It helps if the shelves are clearly labelled with the letters of the alphabet in the appropriate places. Practice in looking for books by a specific author is a good start to library skills lessons. Children can find the layout of the shelves confusing. Commonly, books are arranged in tiers, as below:
It is important to teach children to find the ‘A’ category as the start of the ‘Treasure Hunt.’ Once here children should read from the top shelf in the first section starting with ‘A’ and look down to the bottom shelf. If their author’s first letter of his surname is not there the hunt continues! They have to start at the top of the next section of books and work their way down all the shelves again!
If they are looking for a name such as ‘Williamson’ they may have to search on!
This is a difficult concept for young children but one worth pursuing as it helps with many skills used in life i.e. Looking at train timetables or even looking for crisps on a supermarket shelf!
It is of course very helpful if the shelves are very clearly labelled ‘alphabetically’ with the ‘A to ...’ label distinctive and large at the top of the shelves. The chart above is an example of good labelling and a helpful idea is to teach dictionary skills in the classroom. 
It is important to keep to this convention, to help children when they use the public library, or move on to their senior school.
Most school libraries will have their books catalogued on the computer. Show the children how to use this, so they can find the book they want, either by author or by title. Let them experiment – it’s there for them to use and to become familiar with. They need to learn that they should be careful with their spelling to get the result they want.
Choosing the right book
Finding information in books
Ideas for library lessons KS1
Stimulating reading in school
Encourage children to branch out in their reading. A great way of doing this is to share their favourite reading with their peers. If children are confident enough, right from a young age they can talk to their class, or a small group, about the books they have enjoyed. Why not have a book recommendations board in the library? Children can complete a pre-printed card to tell their friends what they have enjoyed. They can just complete author and title, and their name, or they can write a short summary of the book – but please don’t insist on this!
Help children enjoy reading
Short stories in the library
Book activities
Fiction books and book review
20 ways to encourage reading
Helping reluctant readers
Book review 2
How to review a book for KS3
How 'Early Readers' help
Fairy tale journey around Europe
Chris Riddell
Reduce stress - read to your child
Picture books help bereavement
Encouraging reading for pleasure
For older children, this can be extended into a project on their favourite author. Get them to do research about the author – find out why s/he writes the books. They can choose a favourite book and talk to the rest of the class about this; maybe choose a favourite character too.

Study skills

The library is the ideal place to teach children a range of study skills  - these will stand them in good stead throughout their education.


Making notes
Making and using a glossary
Research topic
Making notes - explosion chart
Writing library skills worksheets
Compiling a bibliography
Effective study habits
How to compile a bibliography
Making notes KS2
Proofreading and correcting
Setting out an information text
Proof reading practice Years 5 and 6
Reading aloud at KS2
On the shelf KS1


Learning to use a range of different reference books is a useful and enjoyable skill.


Using encyclopaedias
Using dictionaries
Using an atllas


These skills can then be used to answer questions.


Research questions
Research quiz
Research questions 2
Research project on the UK
UK map quiz
UK quiz
Library quiz medieval mysteries
World War I quiz
Stuarts quiz


Encourage children to widen out in their reading – there are plenty of ideas on our reading pages. One way to introduce children to a range of different books is through the use of short stories. These fit in well with library periods and a wide range of different genres can be covered in a term. We have a list of recommended short stories on the site.
Above all, remember that the most important thing is to ensure children enjoy reading, so make the library lessons fun so children can share and make a real contribution, and go away really wanting to read the book they have chosen.

Children's fiction 

We have a selection of worksheets on some popular children’s fiction books – these contain activities that are a great resource to use in library lessons.

Katie Morag
Winnie the Pooh
Thomas the Tank Engine topic
Grandpa Chatterji
The cat in the hat
Noddy books
The wreck of the Zanzibar
Bill's new frock
Charlie and the chocolate factory
The machine gunners
Goodnight Mr Tom
Tom's midnight garden
The wind in the willows
Harry Potter
Street Child
The midnight fox
There's a boy in the girls' bathroom
The angel of Nitshill Road
Boy by Roald Dahl + Comprehension
Charlotte's web
Carrie's War
Ballet Shoes
The Railway Children
The lion, the witch and the wardrobe
The Jungle Book
The Family from One End Street
Peter Pan
The Famous Five
Just So stories
The Secret Garden
The Borrowers
Swallows and Amazons
What Katy Did
Harry Potter 2
Kit's wilderness
Lord of the flies
The adventures of Tom Sawyer
Bridge to Terabithia
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

Book quizzes


Book quiz for 5 to 7 year olds
Book quiz for 7 to 11 year olds
KS3 book quiz
Library quiz medieval mysteries
Animals in literature quiz
Children's book quiz
World War I literary quiz


Children's writers

Jacqueline Wilson
Jacqueline Wilson book activities
Aesop's fables
Hans Christian Andersen
Angie Sage
Michael Rosen
Anthony Browne
Roald Dahl activities


Michael Morpurgo
Julia Donaldson


Book Resources

These resources are kindly provided by the publishers - we are very grateful for permission to include these. More Bloomsbury resources can be found here.
Mr and Mrs Von Bat (Monstrous Maud)
Dear Zoo
Quentin Blake/Roald Dahl illustrations
Curious George activities
Dinobaby colouring sheet
Fairytale Hairdresser Activity Pack
Alfie Activity Pack
Press Here
It's a Tiger activity kit
The Abominators
Petticoat Pirates
Middle School Educators' Guide
Creative writing fairy tales
Gordon the balloon
Bloomsbury Poetry Activity Pack
The Selfish Crocodile Activity Pack Bloomsbury
Michael Rosen Poetry Pack Bloomsbury
The Wombles Activity Pack Bloomsbury
Lulu Loves Activity PAck Bloomsbury
Debi Gliori Activity Pack Bloomsbury
Alice in Wonderland Activity Pack Bloomsbury
Wildlife Activity Pack Bloomsbury
Snappy Speller Activity Sheets Bloomsbury
Fantastically Great Women Activity Pack Bloomsbury

More helpful resources


Improve your library
Boys and reading
Book review 2
Laureate - the Children's Laureate
Writing an autobiography
Colouring - children's book characters
Choosing and using fiction and non fiction


Dear Zoo and Rod Campbell

Rod Campbell
Over 5 million copies of Dear Zoo have been sold since it was published in 1982 (roughly one in five households in the UK have, or have had, copy of Dear Zoo in them). To celebrate Macmillan are publishing Dear Zoo in Touch and Feel format for the first time (Dear Zoo Touch and Feel will be published on 30th August). It joins an extensive Dear Zoo range. They also released a Dear Zoo app at the end of last year which was recently been Highly Commended at the Junior Awards and described as ‘A truly delightful addition to a well-loved format that has delighted a generation of babies and toddlers (and now has a nostalgic resonance for today's newest parents who may have read the original version when it was first published in 1982!).’
 Dear Zoo is now a book that is being passed down from generation to generation and here is a video of three generations of Dear Zoo fans put together to celebrate the 30th anniversary
Q&A with Rod Campbell
What inspired you to write Dear Zoo?
Seeing a flap book (rare 30 years ago) made me realise how judicious use of flaps could draw in pre-readers to books and the reading process, and it stimulated me to use flaps in a simple story with repetitive elements.  Young children love animals, flaps suggested boxes or crates for them, and quite honestly, the idea formed almost spontaneously in my mind!
What do you think makes a classic children’s book?
A classic children’s book is one that speaks in the same way to succeeding generations, and perhaps it is the combination of storyline, illustrations and ‘idea’ that give an integrity and wholeness to what is going on between the covers of the book, making it a real experience for the reader.
Why do you think Dear Zoo has stood the test of time?dear zoo
Well, children love lifting the flaps (even when they know what lies beneath!), they soon catch on to the repetitive text and reacting to the different animals, and of course the story ends on an up - to the child, a logical and satisfactory conclusion!
If you could have any animal sent home to you in box what would it be and why?
I think children soon realise that having an animal sent from the zoo to you at home has certain disadvantages!  I think a cat or dog would suit me very well. Perhaps a nice lively Jack Russell! Failing that, a nice plump tabby cat that sits on your lap the minute you sit down and purrs with pleasure!
Do you think it’s important to get babies into the book habit before their first birthday? And if so, how do you do this?
Yes I do. Interactive books have become widely available and relatively inexpensive now, and they are a good way of getting babies involved. Choose books with simple images and text – remember you’re buying the book for the baby not for you!  
What do you think about Dear Zoo reaching its 30th anniversary?
On this 30th anniversary what pleases and moves me is the realisation that DEAR ZOO is enjoyed by young children as much today as by their parents  all those years ago!   Who would have known!

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