Summer Read-to-Learn

All summer I’ll be sharing books for kids of all ages on topics that will interest them or offer them a new interest to learn about. Most of the time these will be nonfiction books, but sometimes we can learn how to be better people or learn empathy from fictional stories too.

So, I hope you will stay tuned to these posts. They will always have Summer Read-to-Learn in the title and in the tags. There will be books from some of my favorite publishers like National Geographic, plus, some from independent publishers.


A Word-Origin Dictionary for Kids

Building Vocabulary through Etymology, Definitions & Stories

By: Jess Zafarris

Published: February 25, 2020

Publisher: Rockridge Press


When our kids were little, I had a children’s dictionary and every night we would read ten or so words and pronounce them and read the definitions. Because it was a children’s dictionary, the words and definitions were simple and were accompanied by illustrations when appropriate. This was an easy way to build their vocabulary and also help with spelling. It was just another way of reading to them and helping them absorb new words and I found it extremely helpful for them. All of our kids were early readers and I attribute it to the daily reading in our home when they were very young.

ONCE UPON A WORD doesn’t just offer pronunciation and definitions, but also shares where words came from and their etymology.

Etymology is the study of the way words have changed over time. It looks at where words came from and when they were invented. By understanding word origins, we learn more about how and why the words were first made up.

If you want to help your child with their spelling, knowing the word’s origin and root can help. This book offers all of these and more including definition, pronunciation, synonyms, the part of speech, and any historical information about the word. The very end of the book shares a list of food words and music words as a fun way of sharing the culture around words.



A caribou is a large type of reindeer. Its name is an Algonquian (Native American) word meaning “pawer” or “scratcher” because it digs in the snow with its hooves to find moss and grass.

Only one word from each letter of the alphabet is pictured at the beginning of each section. The words in this book are a bit more advanced: botanical, illuminate, mnemonic, and ruckus for example. So this book is targeted for the upper elementary age group. I could see this being used if your child struggles with writing, vocabulary, or spelling. Tables in the beginning of the book offer the Latin and Greek-based roots as well as common prefixes and suffixes.

Homeschooling families will find this dictionary beneficial as well. The bright colors and illustrations draw the kids in and the definitions are written specifically for kids to read and understand unlike adult dictionaries. The definitions “talk” to the reader like a parent would when explaining a word which I appreciated aside from other kids’ dictionaries. This is one to definitely add to your home library.

Jess Zafarris has been writing about etymology for more than ten years. She has a MA in journalism and mass communications and a BA in English literature.

To purchase a copy of ONCE UPON A WORD, click the photo below:

Other books you might like:

Thanks to the publisher for sending a copy of this book for the purpose of this review. This review is my honest opinion. If you choose to make a purchase through the above links, I may receive a small commission without you having to pay a cent more for your purchase.
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