Tuesday is Library Day in the River Houses, and this Tuesday also happens to be the birthday of “Dr. Johnson” — Samuel Johnson, that is, the great English author and lexicographer (1709–1784). (“Oooh, ‘lexicographer’ is a beautiful word — let’s look it up in our lexicon.”) (“Oooh, ‘lexicon’ is a beautiful word — let’s look it up in our dictionary.”) Dr. Johnson’s birthday is just the right day for some homeschool lessons about dictionaries.
Every homeschool should have several dictionaries — simple picture dictionaries for small children, intermediate dictionaries for tweenagers, and big unabridged dictionaries for teens and mom and dad. The big family dictionary we recommend is the American Heritage Dictionary (riverhouses.org/books), but many other good choices are also available, and the place you and your students should investigate them is your local library.
On your next library visit, take your students to the dictionary section (usually Dewey Decimal 403, 413, 423, etc., perhaps in the non-circulating Reference area) and show them the wide range of different types of dictionaries that exist. If they’re used to just one dictionary at home, this should be an eye-opening experience. You’ll find pocket-sized dictionaries and multi-volume monsters. (The 20-volume Oxford English Dictionary is one of the most wonderful books in the world.) Show them bilingual and monolingual dictionaries in French, Spanish, German, Greek, and whatever other languages you can find. Look for some speciality dictionaries as well: science dictionaries, law dictionaries, medical dictionaries, and more.
You might even find a modern reprint of Dr. Johnson’s great Dictionary of the English Language (1755), one of history’s most famous books.
Teaching your students about all the resources available in the library will help them become independent learners who can branch out on their own and make new educational discoveries. That’s surely a worthy ambition for every student — Dr. Johnson would approve! 😊
What treasures have you discovered in your library lately? 😊