Using Books and Libraries


As a school librarian, I am keen to promote effective and enjoyable use of the library in school. School libraries can provide a flexible place for learning where project work, individual study and group research can all take place.

This page is full of ideas to help when teaching children how to enjoy the library. Try the worksheets based on popular fiction books to support and enhance children's reading.

A successful school library is at the centre of a school learning community.

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. Here are some examples of the dozens of reading lists on the site.
Reading lists for all age groups on Parents in Touch.
Fantasy stories
Other countries reading list
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
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
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


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


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
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
Kit's wilderness
Lord of the flies
The adventures of Tom Sawyer

Book quizzes


Book quiz for 5 to 7 year olds
Book quiz for 7 to 11 year olds


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


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


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