Submitted by Walter Boomsma
On a national level, the Grange has been an active participant in the Dictionary Project’s effort to assist all students in becoming good writers, active readers, creative thinkers, and resourceful learners by providing them with their own personal dictionary since early on. In fact, early on we dubbed our effort as “Words for Thirds” making it something of a signature project for the Grange.
According to records provided by the Dictionary Project, Maine Granges first participated in 2004-2005 by distributing just over 1500 dictionaries throughout the state. Annual distribution climbed to a high of nearly 2700 in 2o08-2009 and has been somewhat steadily decreasing since. Fortunately, other organizations such as Rotary, Lions, and Elks have been active participants and the number of dictionaries reaching our students continues to grow.
There are, however, many schools and children who are not “getting the words.” With the assistance of the kind folks at the Dictionary Project, I have a rather complete list of schools in Maine showing a large number not being sponsored.
There’s a lot to like about this program, including how affordable the dictionaries are to purchase and the payback these books generate–short-term and long-term.
Thank you for coming to our class. Thank you for giving us Dictionaries. We need Dictionaries to look up words that are longer… Thank you for showing us the Grange tools. I liked them…
from a thank you letter written by a third grader
We invested $1.75 and a few minutes of our time in that nine-year old. Maybe he’ll write a best seller some day. One of his classmates wrote that she remembered the first word she looked up was “steward.” She must have gotten the meaning because she promised to keep her dictionary safe for a very long time. In fact, the Valley Grange program now includes invited sixth graders to help when we present dictionaries to the third graders. They always bring their somewhat worn dictionaries and talk to the kids about how great it is to have a dictionary.
This student is getting the words
Another great aspect of Words for Thirds is the amount of community support it generates. That support is not just about the dollars, it’s about the principle. In these days when we think kids are easily bored and addicted to television and video games, communities enjoy hearing how excited they become over a good “old-fashioned” book. So it might be time to consider taking a look at the list and finding a school you can “adopt.” (Due to consolidations the list may not be totally accurate. If you need assistance, the folks at the Dictionary Project will be only too happy to help.)
If you’d like some assistance putting a program together, I’ll be happy to share our experiences and help you get started. We are now covering three districts and five schools. Two of those schools make field trips to our Grange Hall every year. But we also have a little school where we visit with 7-8 third graders every year. I’ll even share the PowerPoint Presentation I’ve developed to share some history and information about the Grange with the kids.
No matter how many dictionaries you end up distributing, you’re impacting kids like the little girl at the right who just couldn’t stop looking up words. In larger communities, consider a Words for Thirds Pomona Project or sharing the cost between several Granges. You can view the entire list of schools here: ME Schools – Dictionary Project. The list is color-coded to show schools with sponsors and those without. Let’s get the words out!