Books for Gifted Children About the History of English

Gifted children are interested in the origins of language

Some gifted children, particularly the verbally gifted ones, have quite an interest in language. It's not just that they like to read or have a fascination with letters and words. They have quite a curiosity about everything involving language. One thing they are curious about is where language came from. The history is long and complex so it's hard to find a perfect children's book on the topic. However, children who are curious about the history of the English language will no doubt enjoy this reading list featuring books about the language's origins.

The Journey of English

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Very young children who want to know about the English language's history might find this book interesting. It covers significant events, such as the British invasion of the Angles and Saxons and the Great Vowel Shift. It also includes lists of words borrowed from other languages, along with a section that provides tips on how to figure out the origins of words based on the spelling and meaning of modern words. While children might not get a full history of the language from this book, they will find plenty of interesting facts.
Ages 8 and up

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Say What?: The Weird and Mysterious Journey of the English Language

This book is more thorough than "The Journey of English." But it's also for older children. The book moves from the Greek and Roman influences to the effects of the Angle and Saxon invasion of Britain, which, when mixed with the native Celtic languages, led to what is now known as Old English, the language of Beowulf. Then the Norman invasion of 1066 introduced many French words to the language. English continued to evolve and change into what is now Middle English, the language of Chaucer.

Wars with the Arabs and Europeans, the Protestant movement, the invention of the printing press and more all led to changes in the language and help explain how English became what it is today, quirky spellings and all. The book includes word games, fun facts and puzzles.

Ages 10 and up

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The Word Snoop

"The Word Snoop" isn't so much about the history of the English language, but of the English alphabet, punctuation and spelling. It also covers code languages like Pig Latin and rhyming slang, as well as puns, tongue twisters and even texting! There are other fun topics like Tom Swifties and Spoonerisms, euphemisms, cliches and doublespeak. This book is a great addition to the history of the English language.

Ages 10 and up

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The Timeline History of the English Language

This book provides a history of the English language, using a timeline approach. A timeline appears on every page, with events that contributed to the the evolution of English dated on the timeline. Maps are also included so that readers can see where events took place, where invaders came from or where people migrated from and to, all of which affected the development of English. The book includes 25 maps, 45 images, and quotations from different periods in the evolution of English. It also has a history of the alphabet. The timeline and maps help clarify a complicated history of the language.

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English Isn't Crazy!: The Elements of Our Language and How to Teach Them

How often do we hear people say that English is a crazy language? Rules have exceptions and the exceptions have exceptions. Spelling is terribly inconsistent. Why is that? This book helps explain why English is the way it is, as it covers the changes in the language over time. This book is great for homeschooling parents who want to teach their children how to improve their reading and spelling since it provides some tips on approaching the Latin and Greek morphemes in English.

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King Alfred's English: A History of the Language We Speak

This book is a good one for home schoolers (and anyone) looking for information on how English became the language it is today or at least to where it becomes what we consider Early Modern English (think Shakespeare). It starts back in 55 BC and goes to 1611 when the King James Bible was published. That's significant because of the influence it had on the English language. Readers will learn about spelling, grammar, word histories and historical events that influenced English. The book, written for kids in grades 7-12, includes links to supplemental materials, worksheets and tests on the author's Web site as well as links to images, articles and videos.

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