Turning a potential bore into a motivator

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By Dr. Andrew K. Shenton

Using the library classification system doesn’t just have to be the job of the librarian – get children involved too

2008 has been designated as the National Year of Reading and no doubt many schools will be keen to seize the opportunity this presents for promoting their libraries. However, since there is now a widespread tendency among children to obtain much of their information, for both academic and leisure purposes, from the World Wide Web, any attempt to promote a school library’s non-fiction collection may appear a thankless job. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that, where relatively simple schemes are likely to be employed, the method of classifying non-fiction stock may seem disconcertingly abstract to youngsters, and attempts to devise stimulating activities to promote familiarisation with the categories can pose quite a challenge.

Match making

It may be difficult to enliven the initial introduction explaining the groups and how they are represented but, once children’s understanding has started to grow, you can set a range of engaging tasks. One that I have frequently used with children of eight upwards begins with children being shown a breakdown of the main categories, in the order in which they are arranged in the scheme. On the left hand side of a sheet of paper, each child makes a vertical list of, say, ten specific topics for books that he or she believes would be covered in the classification scheme. The sheet is folded down the middle and, opposite each topic, the child states the relevant classification category and, where appropriate, the number or symbol representing it. The youngster tears the paper in half along the fold, retaining the list of categories but passing on to a classmate the list of topics. The child, in turn, receives the partner’s topics and, on a separate piece of paper, writes down the category into which he or she believes each of the book topics fall. This is ultimately passed to the child who created the topic list, and this child marks the partner’s “answers” by comparing them with those on the list that he or she has kept. (It is useful if, at this point, an adult is available to adjudicate on any matters of disagreement that arise!)

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