Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. With the help of their crisp blue new dictionaries, that`s one word Peabody third-graders are certain to know how to spell.
This week marks the fifth year that members of the Peabody-Lynn Elks Lodge 1409 participated in The Dictionary Project, which serves to provide each third grader across the state with their own personal dictionary.
The movement was started in 1992 when a Savannah, Ga. woman donated 50 dictionaries to students who attended a school near her home. The gesture caught on, and after her death in 1999, the non-profit organization was formed to continue her efforts to improve reading and comprehension among America`s elementary students, particularly those in the third grade.
So far, Elks Lodges across Massachusetts have donated over 100,000 dictionaries to third graders. The Peabody-Lynn Elks members have given out over 3,500 dictionaries in their area alone.
`We believe in what she (the organization`s founder) believed in,` said Elks member Bill Mahoney as to why they participate each year.
Dressed in their black and white tuxedos fashioned with red pins, the members happily handed out their gifts to the students who were just as happy, if not happier, to receive them. The students eagerly used their new dictionaries to look up the answers to trivia questions asked by the Elks. Some were even astonished by what fun facts they found inside, such as how to use Roman numerals, a list of U.S. presidents, and the capitals of each of the 50 states.
`These are our gift to you. Take it and keep it with you next year,` said Elks member Joe Hanley. `Enjoy it. I hope it helps you all.`And, according to Hanley, the dictionaries have helped. He said that current fifth graders thanked the Elks for their generous donation because it helped with their writing and their homework. He said sixth graders told him it was `a good program` because it helped them with their science.
Welch School teacher Harolyn Fucile has welcomed the program into her classroom for the last four years.
`What really gets them is they know a little bit about the Elks, but they never expect them to come into their classroom wearing tuxedos,` she said. `It`s exciting for them.`
Fucile implements a `word of the day` activity into her teaching plans each morning. At the beginning of class, students are to grab a dictionary off the shelves and look up the definition of the word on the board.
`I think they`re really excited that they have their own dictionaries now and don`t have to go get the big red one anymore,` she quipped.