What’s in the News: Using Newspapers in Your Library

One of the ways teachers, parents, and caregiver can facilitate a child’s love of reading is by modeling reading themselves.  Though it’s not always easy to compete with iPads and other electronics, books still take up the majority of our space at home, and play a significant part in our daily routines.  That said, “reading” needn’t be limited to books — nearly everything counts, whether it’s an online article (though again I try to shy away from this since there are so many distractions online!), a magazine, a comic book or graphic novel (yes, those count!), a recipe, a poem, a play, or a devotional.  The newspaper, for example, can provide many opportunities to practice reading comprehension skills, as well as other language arts skills such as figuring out the topic sentence and important facts or events, inferring/drawing conclusions, etc.  At home, with my 4th grade daughter, I will pre-read articles (to make sure it doesn’t contain anything age-inappropriate or too “scary”), and come up with some questions and new vocabulary or concepts that we can talk about (these can be written on an index card or post-it note and taped to the article).  I encourage her to use the highlighter as much as she wants — to make note of new words or sentences she might not understand.  After she reads the article, we talk about what’s on the index card, and If she seems particularly interested, we can do further research on the topic or have a more extensive discussion.

This “lesson” can be easily adapted to the school library.  Students can be given copies of the article to read on their own, or the article can be projected on the screen and read together.

Here’s one example from today’s Times Free Press (Chattanooga’s local newspaper):

Read “Aquarium adding otters in bigger space” by Barry Courtier (Times Free Press, 9/18/13, B1)

newspaper 091813 otterRemember: Highlight new vocabulary or anything you don’t understand.

As you read, think about:

  • Why is the aquarium renovating and adding space to their existing otter exhibit?
  • Why will the otters be separated by a wall at first?
  • What will the new exhibit allow visitors to do?
  • What sense will otters use to get to know each other?
  • Other interesting facts you might have picked up from the article.
  • How would you find out more information about otters or the Tennessee Aquarium?

Library Scavenger Hunt (Elementary)

I’ve always loved scavenger hunts and similar games (my family used to watch the Amazing Race together religiously before we got rid of our cable).  This is a hunt I’ve created for 4th- and 5th- grade elementary school students, the purpose of which is to help familiarize them with the library, the Dewey Decimal system, the different resources the library offers, etc.  And hopefully, the kids have fun in the process too!


  • Students complete X number of questions depending on time and level of expertise
  • Students can work in pairs
  • You can customize these questions according to the needs and set-up your library

1. Find one of your friends and tell him/her about one of your favorite books — could be a childhood favorite, or something that you just read this summer.

Title of the Book: __________________________________________________________

Friend’s Signature: ________________________________________________________

2. Go to the Biography section in the library and browse the shelves.  Write down the title of one of the books in this area that you’d like to read, and why.

I would like to read _________________________________________________________ because________________________________________________________________________.

3. Go to the Fiction area and find a book whose author shares the first letter of your last name — or better yet, someone who has the same last name! Browse this area and write down the title and author of one book you’d like to read.

Author: ____________________________________________________________________

Title: ______________________________________________________________________

4. Choose a number from 0 to 9.  Multiply it by 100, then browse that section of the Non- Fiction books.  (e.g. 2 x 100 = 200, so I would look at books in the 200s)

a. What is the non-fiction section you chose (000 to 900): ______

b. What are some topics covered in this section? _____________________________________

c. What is the title of a book you might like to read in this section? _____________________________________________________________________________

d. What is the call number of the book you chose? ________

5. Find a book in this library that has been turned into a movie (not Harry Potter!)  

Title: _________________________________________________________________________

I preferred the book/movie (circle one) because ______________________________


6. Find a riddle or a joke and write it down.

Title of book I found it in:  ____________________________________________________

Author and call number: ______________________________________________________

The joke/riddle:______________________________________________________________



7. Think of your favorite animal.  Then, look that animal up in one of our encyclopedias.

a. What animal did you choose?  _____________________________________________

b. Volume number and page number where you found the animal: ______________________________________________________________________________

c. Now try finding the same animal in our Non-Fiction section (e.g. animal books are in the 590s).  Write down the title of the book: __________________________________________________________________________

The author and call number :_____________________________________________

Which resource gave you more information — the encyclopedia or the book?  (circle one)

8. Find three books written by Patricia Polacco (hint: even though she writes for older students, her picture books are filed under “easy”).  

Book 1: _____________________________________________________________________

Book 2: _____________________________________________________________________

Book 3: _____________________________________________________________________

9. Find three books written by Cynthia Rylant (hint: she writes picture books, easy chapter books, and novels):

Book 1: _____________________________________________________________________

Book 2: _____________________________________________________________________

Book 3: _____________________________________________________________________

10. Write down the title and author of a MYSTERY series:


11. Write down the title and author of a FANTASY series:


12. Write down the title and author of a HISTORICAL series:


13. Help!  I am looking for a recipe to make for tonight’s dinner.  Please find me a cookbook and a yummy recipe!

Title of cookbook:____________________________________________________________

Author and call number: ______________________________________________________

Recipe name: ________________________________________________________________

Number of ingredients: ____________

Page number: __________

14. I just got a new pet!  Please help me find a book that will show me how to take care of it!

Pet: _________________________________________________________________________

Title of book: __________________________________________________________________

Author and call number: ______________________________________________________

One helpful tip: _____________________________________________________________


 15. I am an aspiring artist.  Please help me find a book about a famous artist!

Title of book: __________________________________________________________________

Author and call number: ______________________________________________________

Artist name:  ___________________________________________________________________

Year of birth/death of the artist: ________________________________________________

The title of a famous painting done by the artist:  ______________________________

The artist’s style (impressionism, abstract, cubism, etc.): ________________________

16. List 4 different kinds of REFERENCE books we have in this library, and how you would use them:

1. ___________________________________________________________________________

2. ___________________________________________________________________________

3. ___________________________________________________________________________

4. ___________________________________________________________________________

17. Find a book in the library about the state (or country!) in which you were born.


Name the states that border your chosen state:  _______________________________

Are there any state parks in your state?  If so, name one: ________________________

An interesting fact about the arts/literature/sports from your state: _____________________________________________________________________________

18. You would like to conduct an easy and safe science experiment.  Find a book of experiments and an experiment that uses materials you can find at home or school.

Title of book: _________________________________________________________________

Author and call number: ______________________________________________________

Experiment: __________________________________________________________________

Page number: _________________________________________________________________

Number of “ingredients/material” you’ll need to gather: ________________________

19. Find the magazine section.  Find a magazine you might enjoy reading.

Title of the magazine: __________________________________________________________

The title of an article in the magazine you might want to read: ________________________________________________________________________________

Skim the article…what is one thing you might learn from it? ________________________________________________________________________________

20. Your school is celebrating World Day by putting on an International Fair.  Which section of the library could you find books about different countries, their customs, foods, etc.? 

Section of the library where country books are located: ________________________

Title of a book about a country you’d learn more about: _____________________________________________________________________________

Author and call number: _______________________________________________________

Skim the book and write down one interesting fact about the country chosen: ________________________________________________________________________________