Friday, February 3, 2012

Let’s Play Library! [An Alphabetizing & Sequencing Activity]

Children’s librarians tirelessly go through the shelves day in and day out to reorganize the books kids carelessly pull out and shove back in at some other totally random spot. I cannot imagine how frustrating it must be! The school gives kids paint sticks to mark where they removed the book so it can be returned to the same spot if necessary, but not every kid grabs one and sooner or later they’ll all have to be able to figure out the books’ rightful place – including my son.

Before he got started with the library-inspired activity I made, we read a sweet book about library puppets (used during story time) that come to life when the lights go out. It put us in the mood for our own imaginary trip to the library.

When the story was finished, I gave my son some laminated “books” I’d made. On several were written the author’s names with a fine-tip dry-erase marker; the rest had card catalog numbers.

Download a 2-page PDF of these book spines here.

I asked my son which were fiction and which were non-fiction books. He wasn’t sure.

I explained that at the library, fiction books were shelved alphabetically by the author's last name. Non-fiction books were shelved by card catalog numbers.

He promptly sorted the books into two piles – those with authors (fiction) and those with numbers (non-fiction).

Now I told him to put them in order.

He looked at the card catalog numbers on the non-fiction books, and put the book with the smallest numbers first and the largest numbers at the end of our imaginary shelf.

He alphabetized the fiction books by the first (and sometimes second) letter of the author’s last name.

Books with numbers like 145.21 and 110.4 tripped him up a bit. I explained that you focus first on the digits in front of the decimal. 

“Which number is smaller: 145 or 110?” That was easy for him.

My son beamed with pride when all the books were reshelved in the right order!

Maybe he’s a future librarian.


  1. What a wonderful idea! Not only does this help him with numerical and alphabetical ordering, but you could also put the type of books related to that Dewey category. We know that 398.2 is the fairy tale section.

  2. OOhh, that's rather challenging. Maybe I'll have to try and have my daughter organize the 40 books we have checked out from the library.

  3. What a fantastic activity! I will certainly have to do this with my son soon so that he can be more helpful at the library!

  4. This is a creative activity! I love how this activity can also be made easier for younger children and more challenging for older children. I pinned this activity to my Pinterest Board. Thank you for sharing!

  5. What a great activity! My sister is a school librarian and she would love that your son is learning this skill.

    Thank you for linking to Read.Explore.Learn.

  6. Those books are so cute. The go perfectly with the Library Science Curriculum my friend gave me. It is on the right-hand side of my blog under HOMESCHOOLING FILES if you would like to read more about it.

  7. Oh, I need to teach my daughter that. We adore our library, but she is always stuck in fiction while I love perusing non-fiction shelves.

  8. This is sooooooooo cool & CLEVER!! I think every post of your is amazing!!! When my son is ready for this I can't wait to use it!!! Thanks for linking up to TGIF !!
    Beth =-)

  9. Wow! That's an awesome thing to do with your kids. What a great way to teach them.

  10. Great idea :) I was just at our school library today and noticed how the students just left books everywhere.. it was quite frustrating trying to find where they were supposed to go..But this is such a great way to teach them. Thanks for sharing this with us.


  11. I love this! So cute! I saw this on Skip to My Lou I would love it if you would share this with our readers too for Fun Stuff Fridays!

  12. This is such a cool and useful activity to teach your son. Thanks for linking up to AfterSchool.

  13. Thank you for this wonderful template. I will use it in my library classes and will also give a set to our preschooler teachers for a library center in their classrooms.

  14. Cute idea. Please be sure and teach your child the correct library vocabulary as well. The numbers and letters on the spine of the books are called "call numbers" in most libraries. Everything...fiction and nonfiction...has a call number on the spine.

  15. Love them. Will use them to help Preschoolers learn the books of the Bible. I have been looking for something visual to help them in sorting.


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