Logo Title Quebec Reading Connection

Noah Webster & His Words

Kirsch, Vincent (Illustrator)
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2012. 32 pages
First published: 2012
ISBN: 9780547390550 (hardcover)
9780544582422 (paperback)
9780547935416 (e-book)
Original language: English
Book type: Non-Fiction
Book genre: Biography

Text Elements:

character, recurring patterns

Award

Golden Kite Award – 2013

Reading Range

 
Cycle
Elementary
Secondary
 
1
2
3
1
2
ELA
K
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL Intensive & Enriched
5
6
1
2
3
4
5

Description:

This historical biography presents the life of Noah Webster, author of the famous Webster’s Dictionary. A schoolteacher at the time of the American Revolution, Webster’s lifelong proclivity for words sparked a desire to produce a book containing all the words in the English language, with their definitions and correct spellings. His goal was to create uniformity of language in a land of increasing linguistic diversity, thereby helping to unify the new United States.

The humorous illustrations have a cartoon-like quality that makes the book feel like a short animated film. The text provides context to the era and uses a clever technique of placing the definition of certain words in brackets, mimicking a dictionary, and reinforcing for readers the importance of Webster’s life work. The illustrations and font aptly represent early America, providing readers with some insight into the nation’s history. Students may compare this with Canada’s own early beginnings and culture.

A timeline of events in Webster’s life is included, as well as a short synopsis containing additional biographical details.

  •  

    Look up the meaning of abibliophobia and bibliophile. What do they have in common? Would you consider yourself a bibliophile? Explain why or why not.

  •  

    Look up new words in the dictionary. Using different tools (fountain pen, quill and ink, typewriter) recopy these words and their definitions. What do you think about Mr. Webster’s accomplishments? Share your work with the class.

  •  

    In teams, debate whether handwriting with paper and pen is doomed to become a lost art. Discuss the merits of dictionary apps vs. paper dictionaries. Will the latter become obsolete?

  •  

    Discuss what you are passionate about. Find someone in class who shares your passion. Together, create a poster highlighting important facts about your topic. Include new and interesting facts. Present your poster to the class.

  •  

    Discuss the ways in which Webster was a scholar, author, statesman and artist. How did his books help children and promote education? 

  •  

    Write a letter to Noah Webster thanking him for writing his dictionary. Explain to him why it is useful for you.

  •  

    Select five new words from the story. Use a dictionary and write the meanings and the parts of speech of these new words. Discuss multiple meanings for the same word. 

  • To communicate appropriately
  • To construct his/her identity
  • To exercise critical judgment
  • Personal and Career Planning
  • Geography, History and Citizenship