The Rotary Club of Stone Mountain, Georgia has been participating in The Dictionary Project since March 2007. Thanks to their efforts, over 15,700 students in the DeKalb County School District have received a dictionary.
Cynthia Edwards of the Stone Mountain Rotary Club shared the following message with us:
DeKalb County School District (DCSD) is Georgia’s third largest school system, serving nearly 102,000 students, 140 schools and centers, and 15,500 employees, including 6,600 teachers. Students and parents speak over 140 languages and represent over 180 nations. According to its website, DCSD is considered a leader in STEM curriculum with 10 certified schools and programs in more than 90 schools. School choice options are available in nearly 50 schools to include theme, magnet, International Baccalaureate (IB), charter, and Montessori options.
However, although there are outstanding programs in some schools, literacy is still a challenge in many of the DCSD schools, as it is throughout our community and the state of Georgia. In many of the schools in our club’s geographic serving area, we have a significant number of immigrants and refugees for which English is not their primary language. Additionally, most of these schools are populated by students whose families fall in the category of economically disadvantaged. This contributes to the level of exposure and access to materials and/or activities that may assist in their academic achievement.
Many of our students do not have access to a smartphone or a computer at home. Therefore, technological tools to support their educational needs is limited. Since the 2020 pandemic has become a public health issue and virtual learning has been instituted, steps have been taken to close this digital divide. Nevertheless, providing dictionaries to third graders still fills a need. For some students, this dictionary may be the only English language book in their home.
While just having a dictionary will not close this reading level gap, using it to learn, understand, spell, pronounce, and use words appropriately will certainly help address literacy issues by strengthening students’ reading skills. For students that do not have access to smartphones, computers, and the Internet, it is a great tool to support their learning. For students who do have access to the needed technology, A Student’s Dictionary, which we provide to the students, is a useful complement as it provides another source of information, minimizing the risk of students relying only on the Internet for factual information.
Since we have provided dictionaries to third graders in the past, some of the schools’ principals and students have visited our Rotary Club’s meetings and have shared how valuable they have found these dictionaries and how having them has helped to improve students’ academic achievement. We have received thank you cards and notes from individual students with similar comments. We have also been made aware of how having the dictionaries in their homes has helped with parents’ literacy issues as well as increased parental engagement due to parents using the books to help them to have a better grasp on the English language.
Finally, when we have delivered the dictionaries to students in their classrooms, they are typically excited to have a dictionary of their own, with their name inside the front cover.