Noah Webster & His Words, written by Jeri Chase Ferris.
Any time I read anything about the birth of our nation…about our Patriots and Sons of Liberty fighting against the hold of King George and Mother Britain…about settlers moving west and creating lives and towns and families and histories in the wilds…about town hall meetings and hurling tea in to Boston Harbor…about starting a country—fighting for independence and freedom and doing all that without phones and texts and the internet…without electricity…I am speechless with awe. I am amazed by the courage and the strength. I’m envious of the accomplishment. They started a REVOLUTION. They made a difference. They shaped history. We are who we are and where we are today because of those brave early Americans.
One of those brave guys was a bookish Connecticut farm boy who was obsessed with the idea that America could only be truly united if our language was simplified and standardized. His father wanted him to be a farmer, but Noah Webster wanted to be a scholar. He had a dream and it took him his entire life to fulfill it. He graduated from Yale in 1778 during the Revolutionary War and decided to become a teacher. He wrote the first American spelling book, a grammar book, a reader, many other schoolbooks, a magazine and a newspaper! He began the dictionary in 1807 and was bound and determined to include every English word, including all the new American words that were being coined every day and all around him like skunk, dime and tomahawk. Webster studied 20 languages and read thousands of books and when he was 70 years old, the first Webster’s Dictionary was published—the 2nd most popular book ever printed in English. This little book tells the story of his life…
Perseverence n. Adherence to a course of action, belief or purpose without giving way; steadfastness. That’s a good trait to have. I think it’s pretty rare though and getting even more so these days because things are just easier to come by—information is right at our fingertips all the time. I actually did look up that word in a real dictionary just on principle but I haven’t done that in a long time. I used to have to call my sister if I couldn’t think of someone’s name or the name of an actor or a movie and now we just Google away! Think about those Boston Tea Party guys…they couldn’t just do a group text: c u @ wharf 4 T prty
They actually had to walk around town and make sure the whole gang was on board for the plan.
My kids have dreams…but, will they have the perseverance to follow through on those dreams? They have posters of Taylor Swift all over their bedroom walls. The older one can actually play guitar and sing pretty well and I’m not the only one who thinks so. At her last concert people were sort-of blown away and raving about her and I thought to myself, “okay, when do you just say, alright that’s it, we’re quitting school and taking this show on the road?” Because if that’s really the ultimate goal then the entire family would have to be on board. We’d have to find an agent and book some gigs or God knows what. Her sister would become part of her entourage—maybe do hair and make-up—and every other interest she has—like horses and volleyball and science would pretty much go out the window because every waking moment would have to be devoted to the pursuit of the dream of becoming the next Taylor Swift. Does she have what it takes? She could have all the talent in the world, but does she have the perseverance? Do I? Do we as a family have what it takes to devote everything to her dream? I also know that she kinda wants to be a dolphin trainer at Sea World, so maybe she’s not quite focused enough.
I officially have the dream of writing a really good book or a really good movie, or both. I’ve had that dream for a long time and I’ve started many, many times and I have notebooks full of ideas, but then I get sidetracked by other projects like finding another school for my younger daughter or cleaning out the attic and all the closets in the house or painting or making bracelets and necklaces or doing crossword puzzles or working out—all things that are a lot easier for me to finish than this elusive writing project. But maybe I just don’t really believe that I can do it? Maybe I don’t have what it takes. Maybe I’m afraid to fail, but all I know is that so far I haven’t been able to actually persevere all the way through to completion and success.
This book is a lesson in following your dream. It’s highly likely that Noah’s dad and his pals thought he was a little nuts. But he loved words and he loved language and was convinced of their importance in our world and in uniting our country and look at what he accomplished! The clever text describes Noah’s confidence in himself and his belief in our young nation, and the story is filled with definitions and hilarious illustrations and a very cool timeline at the end: educational, inspiring and absolutely fascinating—and a little kick in the pants for those of us who may be giving up on our dreams. Remember, Webster was 70 when he finally finished, so we’ve still got time!