Watertown Elks distribute free dictionaries to third-grade classes

The Watertown Elks are distributing free dictionary reference books to all of the public school third-grade classes in Watertown, Jefferson, Johnson Creek and Lake Mills.

The local Dictionary Project is being funded through a donation from the Watertown Elks Lodge.

The idea for The Dictionary Project began in 1992 when Annie Plummer of Savannah, Ga., gave 50 dictionaries to children who attended a school close to her home. Each year she continued to give this gift, raising money to help give more and more books so that in her lifetime she raised enough money to buy 17,000 dictionaries for children in Savannah.

Early on, her project attracted the attention of Bonnie Beeferman of Hilton Head, S.C., who began a project of raising money by selling crafts to buy dictionaries for the schoolchildren of Hilton Head and the surrounding communities. By 1995, Beeferman was getting so many requests from local teachers to be included in the project that she wrote a letter to the editor of the Charleston, S.C., newspaper explaining the project and asking for someone to help meet the requests from the Charleston area.

Mary French, who was already an active school volunteer even though her two children were still of preschool age, read the letter and decided this was a project for her. Starting with a few schools in Charleston and Summerville, she realized quickly that providing dictionaries to all the students in Charleston was going to require serious fundraising.

She and her husband, Arno French, formed a nonprofit association in 1995, along with a board of directors. Arno served as president, Mary became the director of the association, and The Dictionary Project was born.

Since 1995, over 11.1 million children have received dictionaries because thousands of people saw the same need in communities all over the United States.

The board first set a goal to provide dictionaries to all of the third-grade students in South Carolina each year. In 1997, they expanded their mission to include all of the students in the United States.

The purpose of The Dictionary Project is to provide dictionaries to students to keep as their own personal reference books. This agency seeks to provide dictionaries to all of the children who are in school. The program is typically implemented in the third grade each year, since this is the age at which dictionary skills are usually taught.

The goal of The Dictionary Project is to improve the reading ability and comprehension of all children, everywhere.