Third grade is a special time in the intellectual development of a child.
There are more than 4 million of those children in this country, mostly 8 or 9 years old, still excited about all there is to learn in the world.
In a computer generation where spelling and facts are checked online, the idea of print dictionaries seems almost old-fashioned.
But the Kiwanis organization and educators find this is not the case, that dictionaries still satisfy a need that will probably always exist.
The Dictionary Project is a nonprofit organization that provides free dictionaries to third graders throughout the country. Locally, Kiwanis organizations, such as the one in Riverview, are the local civic groups that partner with the Dictionary Project people to help them achieve their goal.
Andrew Swift, Kiwanis of Riverview president, said his members want to help young people succeed in school and in life, realizing that third grade is a crucial time for students to learn to read effectively.
Swift said Dictionary Project sponsors believe that giving children dictionaries is like giving them sets of keys — tools that will unlock all the information there is to be gained from reading and will also help them write about what they learn so they can share information with others.
“We would like to put one of these valuable sets of keys in the hands of each third grader so that they will all feel empowered to open the world of ideas, get in there and explore,” Swift said.
To help accomplish that goal, the local chapter sought the financial support of community leaders; including elected officials, businesses and school parent’s clubs, requesting a donation of at least $50. Those who donated had their names placed on the front of each dictionary distributed.
A few years ago when the Kiwanis first started soliciting sponsorships, the club collected about $600, more than the $460 cost of the dictionaries. That’s when members decided to adopt another school.
In addition to Riverview’s three elementary schools — Forest, Huntington and Memorial — the club also provides dictionaries for third graders at Trillium Academy in Taylor.
“The city of Taylor does not have an active Kiwanis club so we decided to adopt them as one of our benefactors of this program,” Swift said.
Swift said he doesn’t know all the local clubs that participate in the program, but he is certain that chapters in Allen Park, Melvindale, Trenton, Wyandotte and Southgate all do.
Riverview has been involved in the program since 2006 and started including Trillium Academy in 2009.
“This year we raised $600 to finance the purchase of 260 dictionaries for the Dictionary Project organization,” Swift said.
“The children thoroughly enjoy receiving these books and use them throughout the year. With this year’s distribution, the Kiwanis of Riverview have distributed over 1,300 dictionaries to every third grader in the district.”