For years, elementary children across the United States relied on a cumbersome set of encyclopedias for information on the world around them. In fact, in hundreds of thousands of households, having a set of encyclopedias on a shelf in the living room had great meaning — basically that the family revered learning. With the advent of the Internet, the way children this age gather information they need has changed dramatically; however, encyclopedias still exist, just in another form.
Online Learning vs. In Hand
Familiar names of online encyclopedias include Britannica, Smithsonian, and World Book. Even though a child can’t physically leaf through these encyclopedias as their parents and grandparents did, it doesn’t mean that this type of encyclopedia isn’t full of amazing information. It may seem sad that a child will not remember the literal weight of knowledge sitting in his or her lap, but he or she will remember the vast amount of knowledge at his or her fingertips. Isn’t that just as exciting?
Free vs. Fee
Parents need to know that some versions of online encyclopedias require a monthly or yearly fee for use, while other versions cost nothing. World Book charges $9.95 for one month, and only $49.95 for an entire year. In addition, some school districts may offer access to online encyclopedias through district websites. In my hometown, Britannica’s School Edition can be used for free by local elementary age school children.
This website has a plethora of information to entice a young learner. A daily buzz word helps a child build vocabulary, and the Discover America section has facts and statistics on the 50 states. In addition, topics such as art, geography, religion, science, and math are covered. Also adding to the excitement — colorful font and graphics.
Wikipedia vs. Reputable
Of course many parents may want to steer a young child to Wikipedia. As an English teacher, I advise against this practice. Why? Because even though Wikipedia entries have improved in quality, they still have not reached the level of trustworthiness that other online encyclopedias have. When it comes to learning and homework, I recommend those sources that have a proven track record of being non-biased and comprehensive. If anything, Wikipedia should only serve as a very beginning point for research.
Encyclopedias encourage a child to learn about the world around him or her. They have changed over the years; however, they still fuel a young person’s quest for knowledge.
“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” Benjamin Franklin