Whatcom Granges, Lynden Lions blanket county with dictionaries for third graders
This is a good year to be a third grader in Whatcom County. For the first time, nearly every local third grader will receive a free dictionary, thanks to the Whatcom County Granges and Lynden Lions Club. That’s about 2,000 kids. The dictionaries have or will be given to every student in a public third-grade classroom, and to youngsters in Christian schools in Lynden, regardless of income. “Third grade, they’re ready,” said Oren Gaskill of Bellingham, a member of Ten Mile Grange. “It’s presented to the student, and the student gets to keep it.” Lynden Lions Club took on the project this year for students at public Lynden schools and at Ebenezer, Covenant and Lynden Christian schools. “We have an awful lot of fun going into the classrooms,” said Lynn Holmes, club president. “The teachers are expecting us, but the students aren’t.” With dictionaries of their own, the students don’t have to rely solely on ones in their school library or classroom, or go without if there isn’t one at home. The paperback dictionaries are large – not those small paperbacks the size of Harlequin novels – and have bonus encyclopedic information, such as details about states and presidents. They’re ordered by the case at a discount through The Dictionary Project, a South Carolina group. Washington State Grange began supporting the “Words for Thirds” program eight years ago. Last year, 17,000 dictionaries were distributed statewide. Local Granges joined the program in earnest about six years ago, said Scott Hackett, a member of Haynie Grange and master of Whatcom County Pomona, the umbrella organization for the county’s seven Granges. Early on, local Grange members raised dictionary money for schools closest to their Grange hall. Last year, the program expanded to include Ferndale, thanks to a $1,000 grant from Whatcom Educational Credit Union. WECU also gave $1,000 this year. This year, third graders in Bellingham public schools will benefit, thanks to nearly $1,400 donated by Kiwanis Club of Bellingham. The tab for the Granges is about $3,500. Other Grange money for the program comes from raffles and smaller donations. Tentative plans are in the works for ice cream socials at the seven local Granges in April to raise money for dictionaries for students and for other books for school libraries. Both groups, the Granges and Lynden Lions, hope that countywide coverage becomes the norm, not the exception. “It all depends on how we continue to raise funds,” Hackett said.