5 Unsung Literacy Benefits of Using a Print Dictionary

Leafing through those information-packed pages offers an unparalleled learning experience.

By Scholastic Parents Staff
Jul 22, 2022



5 Unsung Literacy Benefits of Using a Print Dictionary

Jul 22, 2022

There's a good reason why print dictionaries are still a staple in classrooms and libraries around the country. That’s because while plenty of dictionary resources are available online, a paper dictionary is a must-have tool for literacy. The mere act of flipping through its pages and discovering word after word (without waiting for a webpage to load) opens up a new world bursting with unexpected learning opportunities for kids — which can play a big hand in their school success. 

“With print dictionaries, students learn alphabetical order and how to locate a word,” says Maya Lê Espiritu, an elementary school teacher in California. “I give 1st-grade students mini versions of dictionaries to help them with spelling.” 

The benefits of thumbing through a print dictionary are often overlooked in an age when kids can punch a word into their smartphone and have it spit back a definition. But print dictionaries are more than just books filled with words and their meanings: They’re reservoirs of knowledge, promoting literacy, learning, and a deeper understanding of the world.

Children’s dictionaries in particular are important because they feature age-appropriate vocabulary for your young learner. The Scholastic Pocket Dictionary contains simplified pronunciations of more than 13,000 words, including modern terms in science and technology.

Here are five big (literacy-boosting) benefits of reading the small print in dictionaries. 

1. Your Child Will Experience a Snowball Effect of Learning

When kids leaf through the pages of a dictionary to find a specific word, they also see plenty of other new and interesting words they might not know. This adds momentum to their learning, which is especially helpful for a strong start to back-to-school season! You never know what other words will catch their eye, and which ones will inspire an even deeper exploration of meaning and understanding. (Here are strategies for boosting reading comprehension.)

2. Your Child’s Brain Will Get a Workout 

Finding words in a print dictionary or thesaurus exercises kids’ minds and helps them develop their problem-solving skills. To find a word, they have to consider order and sequencing, alphabetization, spelling, context, and much more!

3. Print Dictionaries Slow Things Down

Faster isn’t always better when it comes to literacy and learning. Whether they’re reading, writing, or conducting research, when kids pause for a moment to explore the meaning of a word, they enjoy a much-needed break from the task they're working on. Even a small break in action may inspire a new line of thinking or an innovative idea. 

4. Your Child Will Be More Focused

Print dictionaries don’t have ads. More importantly, kids won’t be tempted to fall down the internet rabbit hole by visiting their favorite websites or chatting with friends. With print dictionaries, children are often more focused and fully engaged in learning.   

5. Print Dictionaries Fuel Curiosity

Curiosity is the cornerstone for learning, and thumbing through a print dictionary is the perfect way to fuel it. With every turn of the page, there’s a sense of randomness and serendipity that transforms your child’s print dictionary into something much more valuable than a literacy tool — it becomes a place to let go and lose oneself in learning. You might be surprised by how some words capture your child’s attention!

Get ready for your child to go back to school with our guide — it's full of recommended books, teacher tips, homework help, and more resources for a successful school year.

Shop a selection of engaging back-to-school reference books and early learning tools below! You can find all books and activities at The Scholastic Store.

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