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Noah Webster


Found in: language arts & literature; social studies; preK-2; 3-5; 6-8; 9-12

W Is for Webster: Noah Webster and His American Dictionary by Tracey Fern and Boris Kulikov (Farrar Straus Giroux, 2015, and can be found at Amazon.com or for FREE at your local library) (K-12)

Noah Webster: Man of Many Words by Catherine Reef (Clarion, 2015, and can be found at Amazon.com or for FREE at your local library) (211 pgs.) (grade 6-12)

W Is for Webster is a brief history of Noah Webster and his first American dictionary. By 1778, Webster recognized the need for American books to unify the many nationalities and cultures in the United States and to distinguish the new country from Britain. “A national language is a national tie,” he argued. His first project was a speller (1783) that simplified spellings. Some but not all his suggestions for spelling changes were adopted. His dictionary came later, a project he thought would take five to ten years but with 70,000 entries, took nearly twenty. Author Tracey Fern sprinkles quotes from Webster’s letters and other writing within the narrative and then “translates” his big words, often with humorous effect. Sharp-eyed students will find subtlety and humor in Boris Kulikov’s illustrations, which incorporate many of Webster’s words. Wordniks may want to search the Internet to discover the meanings of words like fishefy, jiggumbob, and conjobble.

Noah Webster: Man of Many Words examines Webster’s life, career as a lexicographer and activist, and his personal and historical context in greater detail. Aimed at an older audience, it has many contemporary illustrations, notes, bibliography, list of works, and index.

Here are some word-related activities and resources:

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