Tuesday is our usual 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 until July, you can adopt one major class each month and survey the whole of knowledge (!) in a year.
The class for June is the 800s, which covers Literature. (The Dewey system is grouped into hundreds, so “the 800s” means the numbers running from 800 to 899.)
Here’s what you’ll find at your local library in the Literary 800s:
- CLASS 800 – LITERATURE
- 800 – Literature, Rhetoric, & Criticism (General)
- 810 – American Literature in English
- 820 – English & Old English Literatures
- 830 – German & Related Literatures
- 840 – French & Related Literatures
- 850 – Italian, Romanian, & Related Literatures
- 860 – Spanish, Portuguese, & Galician Literatures
- 870 – Latin & Italic Literatures
- 880 – Classical & Modern Greek Literatures
- 890 – Other Literatures
Each of these “tens” divisions is subdivided further of course. For example, in the 860s (Spanish Literature) you’ll find works on Spanish Poetry (861), Spanish Drama (862), Spanish Essays (864), Spanish Speeches (865), Spanish Humor & Satire (867), and so on.
So this month if you’ve got a homeschool student in love with the monsters and heroes of Beowulf, the place to go is 829 (Anglo-Saxon Literature). A future Classical scholar? Head for 881 (Classical Greek Poetry). A future student of American Indian history? Try 897 (Literatures of North American Native Languages).
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, Latin Literature, you’ll find it in the 870s 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: “820 … 840 … 860 … here it is, 870.”
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 Hercules 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 800s, one in the 810s, one in the 820s, one in the 830s, and so on. Find the very first book in the class (the lowest 800) and the very last book in the class (the highest 899). 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. 🔍
❡ Looking in the lexicon: The Dewey system attempts to encompass the whole of knowledge, so there’s a good chance it will introduce your students to subjects and terminology they haven’t encountered before. In the Literary 800s, for example, they may come across familiar language terms like “French” and “Spanish,” but what about “Anglo-Saxon,” “Occitan,” “Catalan,” “Corsican,” “Semitic,” and “Dravidian”? During or after your library visit, then, why not send your students to your family dictionary or to any dictionary sitting open in the library reference room and invite them to investigate some distinguished Dewey-inspired literary vocabulary. 📖
❡ 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 and get great homeschool teaching ideas delivered right to your mailbox all through the year. 🗞