I once heard about a man who read the entire Oxford English Dictionary, all twenty volumes of it, from cover to cover. It took him twelve months to do so. When asked why, the man said that knowing the exact, if obscure, words for things made his experience of the world richer: “Knowing what to call something makes me more aware of that thing.”
Another word-lover, the great poet W.H. Auden, was also fond of reading definitions. He said that if he could take one book to a desert island, it would be “a good dictionary” rather than a literary masterpiece because “in relation to its readers, a dictionary is absolutely passive and may legitimately be read in an infinite number of ways.”
Our kids love their dictionaries too. The little ones pore over their children’s picture editions before they are even able to sound out the words. The older kids go to look up one word, and half-an-hour later are still lost in the in the depths of the dictionary.
In the hands of a child, a dictionary is a powerful learning tool. This big book of words gives kids a large measure of independence in reading, writing, and spelling. It also helps them absorb not just new vocabulary but also new concepts and connections. Knowing the complexities and nuances of our language expands our children’s minds, their thinking, and their understanding.
In short, every child should have a dictionary. And as Auden would urge, it needs to be a “good dictionary,” if not the OED quite yet. Here are three that will serve the purpose:
We tend to associate children with make-believe, fantasy, and imagination. And yet, these lovers of nonsense rhymes and fairy tales are also hard-nosed realists in their own way.As they grow into active and inquisitive listeners, our young k... read more
Some kids are born readers; they devour books as fast as the library can stock the shelves. Others need a little coaxing. No matter which type of reader you have at home, magazines are an excellent way to get kids reading. For a voracious reader, mag... read more