Sunday, May 12, 2013

Noah Webster, Father of the Dictionary.


I have always learned history best through stories, and so when I was given Noah Webster: Father of the Dictionary, I realized that this biography-written-like-a-story would be a pleasant learning experience. 
Reprinted from an original edition in 1942, this book is written in that fashion that older books had, the fashion that makes you say "Words are used well here." The descriptions of the New England Spring that bursts upon the earth, unlocking the tree buds to spread into leaf and flower, and sending the warm breezes over the cool soil in Noah's boyhood farm field resonated with my heart. Spring truly does come in a unique way, and perceptive Noah would have noticed it. 

We meet him first on the New England farm, a book hungry boy tending to his chores, growing up right before the War of Independence. 

We follow him through his fight for education, his desire to access a library of books, his graduation from Yale as an articulate, bright young man. 

We see his passion to give every boy and girl a chance to have the knowledge he had thirsted after. We watch him pen the humble yet revolutionary Blue Backed Speller... the book that opened the door for so many farm children to desire books and reading. 

We see Noah's intelligent mind concerned with his beloved America after she became her own nation...and we find that he was far more influential in government politics that I had ever imagined. Noah's writing with its "clear, beautiful logic" helped convince American's all over that we needed a constitution. 

We meet Noah's family, his wife who loved her scholar husband, his children who grew up surrounded by his wisdom and love of words. 

And we learn about how the love of words caused him to write our dictionary. Noah labored over this work for years, drawing on his own extensive knowledge of multiple languages and traveling overseas to benefit from foreign libraries to research throughly so that no word be ill defined. 

Noah completed this work at his 70th birthday, and his life ended fifteen years later when he was eighty-five. A life well lived, work well done, a legacy left, of faith and sound teaching. 

A Note: I do wish that Noah Webster's faith had been shown more clearly in this book, he is after all the man who wrote "Education is useless without the Bible," and "In my view, the Christian religion is the most important and one of the first things in which all children, under a free government ought to be instructed...No truth is more evident to my mind than that the Christian religion must be the basis of any government intended to secure the rights and privileges of a free people."  Noah Webster. 

Because of that delightful combination of a fact and story, Isabel Proudfit's book is ideal for young children who will relate to young Noah, and filled with enough history for adults to benefit from. 

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