Today is the birthday of Friedrich Froebel, the founder of the first Kindergarten. Born in German in 1782, Froebel started a preschool in 1837 and later came up with term Kinder-Garten ('children's garden') to describe the experience of cultivating young minds through creativity and play. The first kindergarten was established in 1856, and the German has been fully adopted into English with little change from Froebel's original coinage (1).
Some say that we learn everything we need to know in kindergarten, but there is certainly one lesson that is vital to every kindergartner. In fact, instead of kindergartner we might call these children abecedarians. An abecedarian is a 'student of the alphabet.' The word comes from the letters A B C D.
After we have mastered the ABCs and learned to read, we take the alphabet for granted. What we don't realize, however, is how fundamental it is to our literacy. We also sometimes forget that the alphabet, reading, and writing are all human inventions.
We don't know who the inventor was, but we do know that around 2000 BC the idea of using letters instead of pictures to represent sounds and words began to take root. As a result, communication in writing became much more efficient and easier to learn. Instead of learning hundres of symbols, the student now need only learn less than thirty letters. Today kindergartners, or abecedarians, who learn the 26 letters of the alphabet have a foundation to begin mastering the language for reading and writing. The word alphabet is from the first two letters of the Greek alphabet: Alpha and Beta. The Greeks didn't invent the alphabet, but they did perfect it; one of their most important adaptations was the addition of vowels.
Today's Challenge: Advanced Abecedarian
You've probably mastered the alphabet by now, but there are other ways of returning to your abecedarian roots. Below is a list of 26 vocabulary words spanning all 26 letters of the alphabet. How many do you know? How many familiar roots do you recognize? Pick up a good dictionary and look up any unfamiliar words. Also, try making your own list of 26 unfamiliar words.
Quote of the Day: Little minds are interested in the extraordinary; great minds in the commonplace. --Elbert Hubbard
1 - Metcalf, Allan. The World in So Many Words. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1999.