Blog Excerpts

For National Reading Month, Finding Vocabulary All Around Us

March is National Reading Month, and to commemorate the occasion, Time's Katy Steinmetz points to some great writing in small packages. She also checks in with our sister site,, for insights into vocabulary items in the texts she has chosen.

Steinmetz writes:

While reading “great books” is great, it can feel like a commitment that doesn’t jibe with modern life, fractured as it is into an unending barrage of tweets and screens and streams.

That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t ever make time for epic novels or that reading isn’t important. Reading is how we encounter and learn new words, those things we use to communicate and get jobs and woo lovers and understand basically everything. Luckily for the busy, distracted reader, not all great writing is long. And there are tools that will help new words stick in our brains that also fit into our device-centric lives.

“It’s important, especially for students, to know that vocabulary is something that is living, that is constantly all around them, that literacy doesn’t consist of a particular canon of books,” says Ben Zimmer, executive producer of, which debuted an addictive word-learning app for iPhones this week. “You can take any text, whether it’s a movie script or the lyrics of a song, and pull out the vocab words.”

Steinmetz goes on to collect nine words from nine short texts that can be read in nine minutes. The result? A collection of great reading and great words, enriched with explanations of the words from the Dictionary. You can read the whole piece here, and then check out the list we created, which gathers her selected words, her notes about them, and the context from which she pulled them all in one place.

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