AT&T Pioneers, Golden K Kiwanis put dictionaries in hands of third-graders

DECATUR — In the Bible’s Book of Judges, the way people pronounced the word “shibboleth” helped identify whether they were from the conquering tribe or the conquered one.

Today, the word has come to mean a slogan or a password, though a lot of people have never heard it. That makes it a good choice for the AT&T Pioneers, retired phone company employees, to use as the first word youngsters look up in the dictionaries they give to third-graders every year. The Dictionary Project is a cooperative effort of the AT&T Pioneers Life Member Council and the Golden K Kiwanis Club.

“You’re never too old to need a dictionary,” said Marsha Mower, one of the Pioneers, as they visited Stevenson School on Tuesday. “I hope you keep these for years, and I hope you’re still learning new things all that time.”

When the Pioneers began the dictionary giveaway eight years ago, she said, they paged through them hoping to find a word they didn’t know and came across “shibboleth.” Once the kids have found it in their new dictionaries, Mower tells them to think of it like an advertising slogan that identifies a particular company. Then she asked them to think of McDonald’s and what their “shibboleth” is.

“I’m lovin’ it,” said J’Tavian.

Mower told them to go home after school and tell their families about their new dictionaries and that they’d used them to learn what the McDonald’s shibboleth is, and then they could tell their families that they’d learned a new word, because it’s likely their families wouldn’t know that word, either.

“That’s why you need a dictionary,” said Jasean Creason, making Mower laugh.

“Yes, it is,” she said.

The dictionaries are given to every third-grader in 23 schools, including all of Decatur’s public schools, Robertson Charter School, Mount Zion, Maroa-Forsyth, Argenta-Oreana and Holy Family, St. Patrick and Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic schools. The Pioneers’ other big charitable activity is in December, when they buy shoes for children referred to them by school personnel. The children also receive warm hats and gloves provided by other volunteers.

Third-grade teachers Carrie Sager and Temethia Joyner put the dictionaries to good use immediately. Sager said they have the kids use dictionaries in class to look up their vocabulary words, and now that each child has one of their own, they’ll be able to do that more easily.

Joyner teaches science to both classes, and on Tuesday they were learning new weather words, so she set them to work looking those up in their dictionaries, before the AT&T Pioneers even got back to their cars.