Tuesday is our regular Homeschool Books & Libraries Day in the River Houses, and on the first Tuesday of each month we invite you and your young scholars to explore one of the major Dewey Decimal classes at your local library. If you start at the beginning of the River Houses year in September and run to July, you can “adopt” one major class each month and survey the whole of knowledge (!) in a year.
The class for December is the 200s, which covers Religion. (The Dewey system is grouped into hundreds, so “the 200s” means the numbers running from 200 to 299.)
Here’s what you’ll find at your local library in the Religious 200s:
- CLASS 200 – RELIGION
- 200 – Religion (General)
- 210 – Philosophy & Theory of Religion
- 220 – The Bible
- 230 – Christianity
- 240 – Christian Practice & Observance
- 250 – Christian Orders & Local Churches
- 260 – Social & Ecclesiastical Theology
- 270 – History of Christianity
- 280 – Christian Denominations
- 290 – Other Religions
Each of these “tens” divisions is subdivided further of course. For example, in the 280s (Christian Denominations) you’ll find works on the Early Church (281), Roman Catholicism (282), Anglicanism (283), Methodism (287), and so on.
The Dewey Decimal System was first developed in late nineteenth century, and since the majority of books on religion in American public libraries at that time would have been about some aspect of Christianity, Christianity naturally predominates within the main subdivisions of the 200s. But the beauty of a decimal system like this is that it is infinitely expandable, so the single “tens” division of the 290s (Other Religions) can be further subdivided as needed to accommodate the rest of the world’s religions in larger library collections today: Greek & Roman Religions (292), Germanic Religions (293), Religions of Indic Origin (294), Zoroastrianism (295), Judaism (296), Islam (297), and so on.
When you’re learning the library with your students, be sure they understand that any library collection that uses the Dewey Decimal Classification will be arranged in the same way: the numbers run from 000 to 999 in every Dewey-based library, so if you’re interested in, say, Astronomy, you’ll find it in the 520s in both the small-town library near you and in the big-city library across the country. If you have an opportunity to make field trips to multiple libraries over the course of the year you’ll be able to demonstrate that in practice and get your students accustomed to orienting themselves by reading the numbers aloud as you walk together down the ranges: “500 … 510 … 515 … here it is, 520.”
Mastering these library basics will help your students become independent life-long learners and will ensure that they’ll feel right at home in any library they visit.
What delightful decimals and textual treasures will you be searching for in your library this Orion Term? 📚
❡ Make it a tradition: Why not spend a few minutes during your first library visit each month and devise a little Dewey tradition of your own. Read the title page of one book in the 200s, one in the 210s, one in the 220s, one in the 230s, and so on. Find the very first book in the class (the lowest 200) and the very last book in the class (the highest 299). Find the thinnest book and the thickest book in each class. Make a list of your three favorite numbers in each class. If you follow a simple pattern like this month-by-month, over the course of the year you’ll be surprised how much information your students will absorb and how many academic skills they will develop without even realizing it. 🔎
❡ Dukedoms large enough: Have you found all the local libraries in your area? There may be more than you realize, and there’s no better homeschool field trip than a field trip to a new library! The WorldCat Library Finder will help you find all the library collections near you — public and private, large and small — and the WorldCat catalog itself will help you locate the closest copy of almost any book in the world. 😊
❡ When in doubt, go to the library: This is one of our regular Homeschool Books & Libraries posts. Add your name to our weekly mailing list (riverhouses.org/newsletter) and get great homeschool teaching ideas delivered right to your mailbox all through the year. 📚