Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Dictionary Digs

It’s that time of year, when weary parents rejoice at the mere mention of school. The excitement abounds as the household readies for the big event. New clothes, new school supplies, even new shoes are bought for the big occasion. Did you remember the new books?

Whether off to college or to the local kindergarten, we all want our children to do their best. One key to success is a basic understanding of our native English tongue. This is why a dictionary is the single most important book in the house.

“Why, Maggie, the most important book in the house is the Bible.”

Yes, you have a point; the Bible will help all succeed spiritually. A high-quality dictionary on the other hand, will help all succeed intellectually. How many times has a word in the Bible sent you in search of a dictionary? Imagine my surprise when I looked up begot and sired while reading Genesis in sixth grade.

Dictionaries, thesauruses, encyclopedias, and familiar quotations are the cornerstones of any functional library. A good place to begin your child’s education would be with a dictionary. I suggest purchasing hardbacks for younger readers; they are usually substantial enough to withstand the bumps and bruises of play.

Merriam-Webster begins their popular dictionary series as early as preschool with the MW’s Alphabet Book or MW’s Primary Dictionary. All entries have a corresponding picture to enhance the child’s understanding of the word or concept. Another option is Dorling Kindersley’s children’s series; DK My First Dictionary or DK Illustrated Dictionary.

As your children mature, consider replacing their reference books with Merriam-Webster’s Elementary or Intermediary Dictionary. These books exclude explicit words, maintaining a G-rating. To save money, you may wish to purchase a family dictionary. In our house, we have an ancient pre-computer aged Webster, which lacks words like modem, fax and internet.

If your sons and daughters are headed off to college, ensure they have MW’s Collegiate Dictionary. This standard, used as dorm room doorstops all over America, is now in its eleventh edition. If they request a lighter tome, Merriam-Webster offers a dictionary in MP3 format through Franklin Electronics.

At the next tax-free weekend in Memphis, don’t forget the books needed to see your young scholar through preschool to their doctorate degree.

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