Friday, May 15, 2009

‘Dictionary Project’ Will Soon
Give Away Its 10 Millionth Dictionary

Elks Lodge Gives Third-Graders at Fletcher Walker Dictionaries

Kiwanians Donate Dictionaries to 3rd Graders

Students of Sacajawea Elementary School Receive Special Delivery on Monday

And those are just the headlines from the past few days!

More than 9.9 million children have received dictionaries thanks to the generosity of sponsors -- community service and philanthropic clubs as well as individuals -- who have participated in The Dictionary Project. Last year, about 2.5 million dictionaries were handed out.

In suburban Chicago, Theodore Utchen is known as “Dictionary Man.” He has given away nearly 10,000 dictionaries.

“I love it,” Utchen, a semi-retired attorney, said in a Chicago Tribune news story. “This is the most worthwhile charitable activity I do.

“I feel if we can get kids started early in life with improved communication skills, this will make life more meaningful for them. The secret to great relationships is communication.”

Project organizers see third grade as a dividing line between “learning to read and reading to learn,” which is why they have targeted that level for the giveaways. The goal of the Project is “to encourage children to use dictionaries so that they will be able to use the English language effectively.

“A student cannot do his or her best work without a dictionary. By providing this tool we assist teachers in helping all students become active readers, good writers, creative thinkers, and resourceful learners.”

In Charleston, South Carolina, Mary French has given away 300,000 dictionaries. She recalls the moment when one little third grader told her, “This is the best present anyone has ever given me. It makes me feel important.”

“People tell me the kids carry their dictionaries like accessories,” said Mary. “They’re a fashion statement with real meaning!” (See an ABC News story about Mary French.)

Sponsors of the Dictionary Project go about their work quietly. It is only recently that I have learned of this effort, which was begun in 1992 when Annie Plummer of Savannah, Georgia, gave 50 dictionaries to children who attended a school close to her home.

Has your school benefited from The Dictionary Project? Has a local group in your community connected with this project to get dictionaries into the hands of students in your school? Why not click the pencil below and tell us about it?

Friday, May 8, 2009

Cool School Tool:
Stop the “Summer Slide” With the
Scholastic Summer Challenge

“America doesn’t have a school problem, it has a summer vacation problem.”

Those are the words of Malcolm Gladwell in his latest book, Outliers: The Story of Success. In Outliers, Gladwell attempts to answer the questions What sets the best and the brightest apart from the rest of us? What can be learned from their success stories?

One of Gladwell’s premises is that American kids, especially kids of lower socio-economic means, let go of learning in the summertime. Their test scores suffer because they have fewer school days than kids in most other countries -- especially Asian countries, whose students are fast eclipsing our own.

Stop the “Summer Slide”

Research shows that by reading four or five books during the summer, elementary students can avoid read achievement losses that normally occur over those months.

The “summer slide” and research about summer reading are two of the reasons that Scholastic, Inc., is joining forces this summer with The National Center for Summer Learning (Johns Hopkins University) to present the Scholastic Summer Challenge. The Challenge kicked off April 30 with a Reading Game Show, hosted by Jon Scieszka.

Participating in the Challenge is simple. Kids log on to the Summer Reading Challenge, sign up, and take a quick quiz. The results of that quiz will determine on which of four color-coded teams kids will participate this summer. Teams compete to accumulate points based on the number of minutes they spend reading. Kids can win prizes for themselves and for the Summer Challenge’s official charity, Save the Children.

As always, Scholastic has created tons of fun for kids as well as great resources for parents and teachers. The Summer Challenge resource kit includes the following:

 Information on how students in your school can compete with others to set a world summer reading record (learn more)
 Resources to help parents get kids reading (explore the resources)
 Recommended booklists by age level, age 3 to Young Adult (YA) readers (see and print the booklists)
 Video teasers to get kids excited about 65 different books (view some videos)
 Teachers’ best ideas for encouraging summer reading (explore teachers’ ideas)
 A letter you can send home to parents that explains the Scholastic Summer Challenge (see and print the letter)

Take a look around the Scholastic Summer Challenge Web site, gather the support of your staff and PTO, and stop the slide by getting kids reading this summer!