Selecting a dictionary

VISUALS give way to a world of increasing text for the beginning tweens. It’s a time when they are likely to ask for text-rich materials to avoid being viewed as a mere child. However, with increasing text comes new words and meanings which must be sourced and understood. It is in this context, a good and relevant dictionary comes into play.

How do you select?

Books come in various types. You make a careful decision to select the one for your reading needs. You must also approach a dictionary in the same way. You must understand the intentions and purposes of the dictionary, its design, and its style of ordering its definitions. You can do this by reading the guide or explanatory notes in the front of the dictionary.

Then ensure you get a dictionary geared to your tween’s age and reading level. They can also use learners' dictionaries, which are designed for foreign students. Besides the usual everyday variety of language, there is more information about grammar patterns, and plurals and other forms of the words. The most important feature is the many examples, sometimes authentic but always representative of normal, everyday usage.

To further increase the interest level by having a story-like feel, choose a dictionary with examples of how words are used in context, including those from literature. Such illustrative examples may form a significant aid in improving your understanding and use of words.

Where can you get one?

Most large bookstores carry print dictionaries. In addition, stores like Borders and Kinokuniya have well-stocked language sections with a variety of dictionaries. In fact, take your child along for the selection. It could become a rather enjoyable bonding time!

Examples of online dictionaries

Googling can yield a surprising number of online dictionary sites, most free but a number offer premium services...at an affordable price. Following are a few picks of online dictionary sites:

Yahoo! Kids dictionary
This is an online edition of the American Heritage Dictionary by Houghton Mifflin. Besides providing possible word alternatives, it gives suggestions for misspelled words. By clicking on a word of interest, you will get a sound file to help pronunciation, multiple definitions when available, and associated etymology.

Word Central student dictionary
Word Central is based on the Merriam-Webster dictionary.  It also provides spelling assistance, suggestions for multiple interpretations and a sound file for pronunciation.

Wordsmyth
The children’s dictionary search is on the lower left of the page. The dictionary provides all the features of a full dictionary including pronunciation, animation, synonyms, photographs and etymology. But access to most of these features require registration and/or premium membership.