The Dictionary Project and Putnam Literacy Council

Successful literacy programs are often well-kept secrets that are discovered by word of mouth. That’s what happened when The Putnam County Literacy Council came upon The Dictionary Project, quite by accident. An ESOL staff member of The Putnam County Adult Learning Center was attending a monthly outreach meeting at St. Michael’s Episcopal Church in Cookeville, TN. The committee was brainstorming ways to provide bilingual dictionaries and classroom supplies for the family centered ESOL class held at the church. This ESOL class is in its fifth year as a cooperative effort between the church and the Putnam County Adult Education Department. The Adult Education Department provides teachers, textbooks and curriculum for the class. The church provides the meeting place, a staffed nursery, tutors and supplementary classroom supplies.

The rector of the parish, Fr. Joe Weatherly, shared with the group the partnering of The Cookeville Breakfast Rotary and The Dictionary Project. Through this alliance, Cookeville Rotary was able to provide dictionaries for every third grader in Putnam County and every student in the county’s alternative school, White Plains Academy.

Adult Education in Putnam County is supported by The Putnam County Literacy Council. Seeing an opportunity to provide bilingual or monolingual dictionaries for all ESOL students in Putnam County Adult Ed, the ESOL instructor at the outreach meeting drafted a simple proposal, outlining the advantages and possibilities for the Literacy Council to become involved with The Dictionary Project. Lynda Breeden, Supervisor of Adult Education, presented the proposal to The Putnam County Literacy Council at its next meeting. The members enthusiastically embraced the idea of partnering with The Dictionary Project and voted to expand the student base to include all participants in The Putnam County Adult Education Department. Contacts were made and orders were placed. Soon students registered in ESOL, GED, and The Adult High School received their new dictionaries during regular class time. Teachers took the opportunity to develop lessons on writing thank you notes to The Literacy Council. Lessons were also presented on techniques for using the new dictionaries. The bilingual dictionaries were used by one beginning ESOL class to write a group poem in English for the upcoming "Write Voices" production, sponsored by The Putnam County Literacy Council. The poem was accepted by the Council and local thespians performed THE SEASONS before a delighted audience.

Thanks to The Dictionary Project and The Putnam County Literacy Council, adult learners in Putnam County, Tennessee, have personal dictionaries for use in their studies of English as a Second Language, GED preparation, and completion of Adult High School requirements.