The Dictionary – Warm Coat Handshake

 There’s something about the nip in October’s air that gets me to thinking about two of my favorite organizations: The Dictionary Project and Operation Warm. With much in common including dedication to their core values, environmental concerns and furthering the health and education of children, I love telling their stories.

This is my 9th year working with The Dictionary Project through my Rotary Club donating dictionaries to every third grader in each of our four area schools. This has become a legacy project since we are now meeting the brothers and sisters of our original group of 3rd graders. Sometimes we are asked if online dictionaries have replaced the need for a paperback dictionary. If you ever saw a little girl kiss her brand new dictionary you have your answer. Although online resources have their place, third graders typically do not have their own computers; in school they share and at home they may not rank high on the need to use the family computer. When you are writing a friendly letter for homework or completing a reading assignment and you need to look up a word, it’s easy to pull out your very own dictionary from your backpack rather than wait for computer time. As The Dictionary Project says “Dictionaries are a necessity.”

This is my fourth year working with Operation Warm, again with my Rotary Club, providing high quality, new, warm winter coats to children at risk in our communities. They believe, deeply, that a new winter coat enhances a child’s well-being and self-esteem while making it easier to go to school every day particularly when it’s freezing cold. Founded in 1998 they have provided over 1,00,000,000 coats to children in the United States.

So why is this a handshake? If a child has a warm coat chances are s/he will attend school and it is a fact that with better attendance children learn more and learn faster. If they also have a dictionary as a resource chances are they read at a higher level with more understanding.

Consider a statistic from Jeff McQuillan’s research in the late ’90′s – one million children drop out of school every year costing our nation over $240 billion in lost earning, tax revenue and social services expenditures. It seems to me a new coat and a dictionary are a small price to pay to keep our children in school.

The Dictionary Project and Operation Warm indeed have A Noble Purpose.