When we couldn’t find a simple word in the dictionary, we turned to the internet. So we ask: why are schools paying for dictionaries?

In second grade, my son was tasked with a fun project to follow up on a class reading book, Donavan’s Word Jar (Trophy Chapter Book), which is suggested for grades 2 and up, age 6 and up. The story’s main character, Donavan, is obsessed with words and learning their meanings.  He creates a word jar where he keeps slips of paper listing his favorite words and their definitions.

dictionaries vs online

Following the reading, my son’s assignment was to create his own jar, selecting 10 words that are interesting to him and looking up their definitions.

Big selected the following words:

  • mythology
  • hilarious
  • puzzle
  • dictionary
  • Neptune
  • Geb
  • exploration
  • proportion
  • spurious
  • candy

While Geb and Neptune are mythological gods, nearly all of the words were listed in the dictionary supplied by the school. All except for candy.

Big was perplexed. Internally, he knew the meaning of candy and could create his own definition, but was it the proper definition? When he came to me asking what to do, I didn’t quite trust his searching skills. How could spurious (a word he found in the dictionary and thought it sounded cool) be listed but nothing as simple as candy? I searched the dictionary, twice. Candy really was left out of the dictionary.

We did what any other family of the 21st century would do, we pushed aside the several hundred page listing and pulled out our iPad. In seconds, we had a definition for candy:

dictionary vs online


After Big copied the definition, I watched him pick up the student dictionary, turning it as he sat quietly.

“Mom,” he said. “I don’t think I actually need this any more. Should I return it to school? If can find all the definitions online, what’s the use for a dictionary?”

I convinced him not to rid the ancient guide just yet, but asked my Facebook friends for opinions.

do we really need a dictionary


All good points. Of course, to each of the replies we could easily offer a retort–even for the backpacking through Europe suggestion.

Pin it!

We were just as shocked as you will be -- this word isn't in the dictionary! Which begs the question, do we still need to teach dictionary skills to our kids

What do you think? Should dictionary skills continue to be a focus (and expense) of the elementary curriculum? Or will they be phased out in the next 20 years?

mom of 3 and wife living in the Philadelphia suburbs, Julie is a former elementary school teacher and a Public Relations manager. She is the owner/editor of Julieverse, a merchandiser with Chloe + Isabel (jewelryverse.com) and founder VlogMom and Splash Creative Media. A marketing strategist and freelance education and parenting writer by trade, Julie attempts to carve out time to enjoy playing with her kids, PTO, cooking and exercise.

© 2015, Julie Meyers Pron. All rights reserved.

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