The Word Collector

Author: Peter H. Reynolds
Plot Summary: Some people collect stamps. Some people collect coins. Some people collect art. And Jerome? Jerome collected words . . . In this tale from Peter H. Reynolds, Jerome discovers the magic of the words all around him -- short and sweet words, two-syllable treats, and multisyllable words that sound like little songs. Words that connect, transform, and empower.
Posted In: Philosophy of Language

Discussion Questions

You can introduce any of the discussion questions below directly to students and facilitate a class-discussion on it after reading the book or use the book to do the activity that follows:

  • Where do words come from?
  • How do people learn new words?
  • Are some words “better” than others?
  • Is there something that makes a word “good” or “bad”?
  • If you could invent a new word, what would it be, what would it mean, how would you use it?
  • Can we know if a word means the same thing to another person that it means to us?
Activity Objectives:

This lesson plan provides an opportunity for young philosophers to thinking about concept attainment, the meaning of words, and how language develops.

Students will discuss and think about what words are, how we use them, and how we interpret or assign meaning to them.


The Word Collector, by Peter H. Reynolds

Small slips of paper, sticky notes, or index cards (around 3 for each student) and writing implements.

In the Session:

Ask students to sit so everyone can see the book as you read (whether in rows or a circle). Alternatively, if students are sitting at desks, you could use a document camera to read the book. In any case, read aloud The Word Collector.

Then, explain to students that they will be word collectors, just like Jerome in the book. Pass out 3 slips of paper to each student and something to write with. Set a timer that is visible to students, for 5-8 minutes and encourage them to look around the room, (or move around in the space of the classroom, look out the windows, etc.). Ask students to do a word scavenger hunt, where they collect words that they see, hear, or think about and that pique their interest. When the timer is done (or when they finish), ask students to work in small groups (groups of two or four), and share what words they found, and what they like about each word. After talking in small groups, open the conversation to the whole group.

Students can generate questions they have about words in general and/or the book The Word Collector. You can scribe students’ questions then ask them to select one for contemplation and facilitate a class-discussion on it.

Contributed by Brian Tauzel, PLATO Fellow.