Is it back to school time ALREADY? (I’m trying to pretend I wasn’t counting the days.) Here are my suggestions for dictionaries for students.
For children younger than fourth grade, I recommend The Scholastic Dictionary of Spelling. There are no definitions, and it’s a smallish book (the paperback version is 272 pages / 15.25 oz) which is less intimidating than some of the bigger reference books out there and gets children used to looking up words. There are wonderful sections on “How to look up a word if you don’t know how to spell it,” “A dozen and one spelling rules,” “Memory tricks,” and more. I highly recommend it.
For children fourth grade and older, I recommend Webster’s Student’s Dictionary. It says on the cover that it’s “written for ages 10-14,” and that it’s for “Middle School Students,” but I actually like using this dictionary myself! It’s very well organized, has a lot of extra information (such as word histories, idiomatic phrases, biographical info on important people, and more), provides context for word usage, and the pages are (thankfully) less crowded and hard-to-read than a regular adult dictionary. It’s a hardcover book just over 1000 pages and weighs about 4.5 lbs, so it’s a chore for smaller kids to get out and use (make sure it’s already on a desk for easy access). I highly recommend this dictionary as well. My son is not the kind of child to even want to use a dictionary, let alone look up words unprompted (uncoerced), but even he read a few of the extra side notes on certain words! (A great example is on page 299 – the word history of the word “Eureka.” Fascinating!)