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?

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