Words worth a smile

Club’s gift of dictionaries brings happiness to city third graders

By their excitement, you would have thought somebody had put a bowl of candy in front of a room full of West Mastin Lake Elementary third graders.

Who would have thought the gift of a dictionary could create such enthusiasm?

‘It’s like this everywhere I go,’ said Judy Gattis, the education chair of the GFWC duMidi Woman’s Club of Huntsville, as the kids filed out of the room, each clutching his or her very own new dictionary.

The club provided personal dictionaries to all 750 third-grade students in Huntsville City’s Title 1 schools this school year. The club raised almost $1,500 to buy the dictionaries, and Gattis and other members of the club delivered the books.

The response to the dictionaries has been overwhelming, Gattis said.

At Terry Heights Elementary ‘the kids had a fit,’ she said. ‘They said, ‘You mean we get to keep these?’ I get that response a lot.’

Along with the dictionary, Gattis gave a talk about how to use the book, which included not only definitions but also a study guide with everything from a brief biographical sketch about each U.S. president to the Periodic Table.

One page listed numbers, including a googol, a one followed by 100 zeros.

‘That is how much I have in the bank,’ said West Mastin Lake third grader Razi, joking.

‘Can you bring this to college?’ JaBraelan asked.

The duMidi Club bought the dictionaries through the Dictionary Project, a nonprofit organization that has the goal of providing every third grader in the United States with a dictionary.

Gattis found the organization while looking for a new project for her club to do.

‘We decided to try it here in Huntsville and opted for the city Title 1 schools for our first venture,’ Gattis said. ‘We had little trouble raising the necessary funds and hope to do it again next year, possibly in Madison County and Madison City’ schools.

Third-grade teacher Rayford Lightner said the dictionaries were a terrific gift for his students.

‘We love it,’ he said. ‘There is a lot of information in it. It’s almost like having a computer at home,’ which few of his students have.

‘You can’t really do good work in school without a dictionary,’ Gattis said to the children. ‘And now you have one of your own.’

Copyright 2009 The Huntsville Times. All rights reserved. Used with permission of The Huntsville Times.

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