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Dewey Decimal for Kids
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Here's a slideshow that explains the Dewey Decimal System in a way that kids can understand.  Just click the RIGHT ARROW BUTTON to advance through this slideshow and see how the Dewey System works.
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Popular Topics With Kids & Their Dewey Numbers

Image - Dewey 001
Image - Dewey 031
Image - Dewey 200-289
Image - Dewey 292
Image - Dewey 398
Image - Dewey 423
Image - Dewey 513
Image - Dewey 532
Image - Dewey 551
Image - Dewey 567
Image - Dewey 574
Image - Dewey 593-594
Image - Dewey 595
Image - Dewey 597
Image - Dewey 597
Image - Dewey 598
Image - Dewey 599
Image - Dewey 600-609
Image - Dewey 610-619
Image - Dewey 621-629
Image - Dewey 629
Image - Dewey 636
Image - Dewey 641
Image - Dewey 709-759
Image - Dewey 745
Image - Dewey 780-789
Image - Dewey 793
Image - Dewey 796
Image - Dewey 810-819
Image - Dewey 811-821
Image - Dewey 818
Image - Dewey 820-829
Image - Dewey 910
Image - Dewey 912
Image - Dewey 932-939
Image - Dewey 940
Image - Dewey 971
Image - Dewey 982-989
Image - Dewey 973-979
Image - Dewey 993-994
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Doin' Dewey

Imagine you have hundreds of great books, books you love and want to share.  How would you keep track of them?  How would you make it easy for you and your friends to find something fun to read?

You might start with a list of the books - in a library, this is called a "catalog".  Today, libraries use computers to create their catalog.  Using a computer makes it easy to search the listing of books.

You would also probably want to group books, keeping books on similar topics together.  That way, it will be easy to look on a shelve and find all the books that cover a topic.  Libraries do this too - nonfiction books are grouped together by subject.  Fiction books are grouped together alphabetically by their author.

The system that libraries use to organize books on shelves was invented by Melvil Dewey, who lived from 1851 to 1931.  Using the Dewey Decimal System, each book is assigned a three-digit number based on what it is about - think of it as a code for that subject.  A book's Dewey number is also called its "call number".

A digit is one number, 0 through 9.  For example, the number 629 has 3 digits - the first one is a 6, the second is a 2, and the third is a 9.  The first digit of a three-digit Dewey number tells you what main Dewey group a book belongs in.

The Dewey Categories are:

  • 000 General Knowledge.  Encyclopedias, general reference works, computers, newspapers, magazines
  • 100 Philosophy and Psychology.  Optical illusions, brain research, question and answer books
  • 200 Religion and Mythology.  Bible stories, religions of the world, Greek myths
  • 300 Social Science and Folklore.  Communication, education, law, sociology, transportation, etiquette, folklore and fairy tales
  • 400 Language.  Grammar books, sign language, dictionaries, and picture books in many languages
  • 500 Math and Science.  Experiments, mathematics, astronomy, chemistry, physics, geology, biology, and
    dinosaurs, books on specific animals
  • 600 Medicine and Technology.  Human body, medicine, airplanes, space travel, cookbooks and domesticated animals such as dogs, cats, horses
  • 700 Arts and Recreation.  Art, artists, how-to-draw books, crafts, origami, music, joke and riddle books, sports
  • 800 Literature.  Poetry, plays and classic literature
  • 900 Geography & History.  History, geography and travel, atlases, explorers, and biographies

To see examples of the subject areas and Dewey numbers that are popular with kids, click HERE.

As you can see from our Dewey listing above, the main categories can cover many different subject areas.  The second digit in a book's Dewey number subdivides the subject and tells you what a book is about.  This keeps books on the same subdivision together, making it easy to look for books that are on the shelves.

The third digit provides even more information.  It breaks the subdivision down into even more groupings by subject.  Additional digits after the third digit, placed after a decimal point (.), narrow the subject matter down even more. 

Dewey numbers can be used to create very specific groups of books, all about the same topic or subject.  This is why you can look at the nonfiction books on the shelves of a library and see that books on the same subject are always kept together.  What a great idea!

Each book has a label that shows the Dewey number and the first three letters of the author's last name.  This label is put on the "spine" of the book - the part of a book you see when you look at the shelves.  The spine usually also has the title of the book printed on it and the name of the author.

In libraries, nonfiction books are put on the shelves in the order of their Dewey numbers.  The numbers act as a code, telling you what the book is about.  The numbers keep books about the same topic together.

This makes it easy to look for and find books that you want to read.  If you know where to look for the Dewey number, finding books is simple - when you know the Dewey number, you know where the book should be on the shelves.

The Dewey numbers keep books on the same topic together.  This makes it easy to go into a library and look at books that are on the shelves.  Similar books are together.  You can look at the shelves containing the Dewey numbers for the subjects you are interested.  Finding books like this is called "browsing".

The Dewey number also makes life easier for librarians.  When you return a book, they can put it back on the shelves by looking at the Dewey number and putting it back in order on the shelves.

Sometimes, libraries have books that are too big for their shelves, these books are called "oversized books".  Libraries still assign them Dewey numbers, but put them in order on special shelves that are large enough for these big books.

Fiction books can be placed in the Dewey Decimal System, in the 800's, but most libraries have a special fiction section instead.  Instead of having a large section of fiction within the 800's, it is easier to put fiction books together on shelves alphabetically by author.

Most libraries use the three letters FIC to show that a book is fiction.  Instead of giving it a number, libraries just use the first three letters of the author's last name.  For example, a fiction book written by John Meyers would be assigned FIC MEY.

Even though this results in assigning a code that is all letters, librarians still call this a "call number".  Keeping fiction books arranged alphabetically by author makes it easy to find books.  It also makes it easy to find more good books written by your favorite authors.

So imagine you had hundreds of great books that you enjoy reading and sharing.  Using the Dewey Decimal System for nonfiction and assigning each book a call number using a three-digit code would be a great idea.  For fiction books, you could create a call number beginning with FIC, followed by the first three letters of the author's last name.

This is what libraries do.  If you had hundreds of good books, wouldn't this system also make it easy for you to to organize and share books? 

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Last Update:  October 6, 2008