The Illustrated Dictionary of the 21st Century

CEIP Siglo XXI Las Rozas (Las Rozas 21st Century School), in Madrid, has published the Illustrated Dictionary of the 21st Century, created by the school’s children. The project is an initiative of the Parents’ Association in which the entire educational community has participated. They say, as stated in the book itself, that it is inspired by the dictionary My First 80,000 Words by Media Vaca, which fills us with joy. It is, undoubtedly, a great honour.

The Dictionary opens with a foreword by Isaac Rosa in which the writer thanks the children for making a book such as this one, ‘a wild dictionary with which from now on I will be able to spend wild afternoons’. For Isaac Rosa, a wild dictionary is an untamed dictionary. For Claudia Vivero, from Year 4 (quoted by the foreword writer), ‘wild’ is also a person who likes to climb things, run everywhere, etc.

In their introductory text, the AMPA (Parents’ Association) leaders express their pride in this dictionary: ‘It proves, once again, what public school is capable of. We feel fortunate to have a committed and involved directive team, teachers, and families. And we feel especially fortunate in the diversity of the children who attend our school. This is also our greatest fortune.’

Just as My First 80,000 Words was made, the coordinators of the dictionary asked participants to think of their favourite word and draw an image that would represent it. They also had to write an explanation for each word; in this case, a personal definition that had not been extracted from a book. Every primary student chose their own word and there is one collective word for each preschool grade. All the work was carried out in classrooms. Let us look at some examples:

Kickball: Kickball consists of the pitcher throwing the ball. If it does a full circle it is a home run, and if you are caught between two bases you are out. [Álex Botín, Year 4, Class A.] 

Horse: This is an animal used for racing, going on walks, having fun, and many other things. They communicate through a ‘neigh, neigh!’. This is how this type of animal called horse communicates. [Narjis Alakhbaze, Year 4, Class B.]

Heart: It is inside the body. It is red, it sounds like ‘pup, pup’. When I am nervous, it beats fast. [Yelissa Santana, Year 2, Class A.]

Empathy: This is a person who puts themselves in someone else’s shoes and has a similar feeling to that other person. [Alvin Obispo, Year 7.]

Guachafita: It means to go out partying or to joke, for example, when someone says ‘Let’s go to a “guachafita”’. It is a Colombian word, here in Spain it is not used much. [Santiago Escobar, Year 7.]

Mum: She is a person who cooks dinner for me, bathes me, takes me out, and gives me hugs. [Mª del Carmen Peña, Year 2, Class B.]

Peace: Peace is a beautiful word. To have peace means that there is no war. [Estefanía Martí, Year 5.]

Laziness: Habit of some people, manifested when there is a situation of having to grab something or getting up. [Alejandro Escobar, Year 7.]

In terms of graphics, the book is very well resolved. One can perceive in the images a certain influence from Saul Steinberg, Paul Klee, Jean Dubuffet, Jirí Salamoun and other great masters, although it is possible that many young students at the Siglo XXI school have never heard of these artists. In time. This beautiful book —and this even more beautiful collective project— keeps alive all hopes.

Vicente Ferrer

Illustrated Dictionary of the 21st Century, Made by the children of the Siglo XXI school. Foreword by Isaac Rosa. Project: Parents’ Association of the Siglo XXI school, in collaboration with the school. Design and layout: ES editions. First edition: April 2012.