Third grade students’ lives opened to the world of words through joint Rotary, AHEF program

Almost 3,000 third-grade students in the Anoka-Hennepin School District received dictionaries this school year through a program sponsored by local Rotaries and supported by the Anoka-Hennepin Educational Foundation (AHEF).

The goal of the "The Dictionary Project" is to assist all students in becoming good writers, active readers, creative thinkers, and resourceful learners by providing them with their own personal dictionary. The dictionaries are a gift to each student to use at school and at home for years to come. Educators see third grade as the dividing line between learning to read and reading to learn, so we encourage our sponsors to give dictionaries each year to children in the third grade.

Recently, AHEF Executive Director Tess DeGeest and Cheryl Kish, a member of the Anoka Rotary, distributed dictionaries to third grade students at Wilson Elementary in Anoka.

"We are here to give you a gift," DeGeest said. "Make sure you put your name in it because they all look alike and this is yours to keep.

"Enjoy your dictionaries; they are fun!"

Students were very excited to receive their new books and to learn there were a lot of cool things, like maps, between the covers. Students were also intrigued to see the longest word in the English language, a scientific word with 1,909 letters. Some students even tried to pronounce it.

After DeGeest and Kish’s visit, students sent them thank you cards they created.

"Thank you for A Student’s Dictionary. It will be a very useful thing to use. I will use it in school and at home," wrote one student.

"Thank you for A Student’s Dictionary. This book will be useful for the rest of my life. This will really help me," wrote another student.

Working to get dictionaries into the hands of local third grade students were members of the Coon Rapids, Ramsey, Anoka, and Ham Lake/Blaine Rotaries. Both the AHEF and Connexus Energy provided additional financial resources. ECM Publishers provided labels for the dictionaries. Mary Peterson, a STEP special education para, facilitated distribution of the dictionaries to each elementary school and AHEF Board Member Gary Campbell, a former president of the Anoka Rotary and state-wide Rotary leader, also assisted in the project.

The idea for The Dictionary Project began in Georgia in 1992, when a woman provided dictionaries to 50 students at a school close to her home. Interest in the program grew by word of mouth, and in 1995 it became an official nonprofit organization. Since that time, more than 14 million children in the U.S. have received dictionaries. The Dictionary Project has been active in the Anoka-Hennepin School District for about three years.