Their word's worth

Barrow students receive free dictionaries


Every third-grade student in the Barrow County School System received a free dictionary last week.

Volunteers began distributing the 1,057 English and 85 Spanish - English dictionaries Monday at Bramlett Elementary School in Auburn. Business, civic and school groups raised funds to buy the dictionaries, which cost $1.25 to $2 apiece, depending on the amount purchased.

In Barrow County schools, dictionary skills are introduced in the third grade, and delivery was timed to coincide with the curriculum. Bramlett Elementary third-grade teacher Amy Harrell, Bramlett's Teacher of the Year 2007-2008, was glad to see the dictionaries roll in. She had bought some out of her own pocket to stock her classroom, but there still weren't enough for all her 21 students.

"Three of my students would not have had a dictionary if not for this donation," Harrell said. "We use them every single day. Now, students don't have to share and they can use them at home."

Shaniqua Harrigan, 9, Bramlett Elementary, said her new dictionary will be useful in reading class.

"When I grow up, I can say someone kind gave me this dictionary," said Shaniqua, who wants to become an environmental lawyer or school teacher when she grows up.

Several minutes after receiving their dictionaries, Harrell's students were still thumbing through them. Many were practicing the sign language skills they found inside, or trying to pronounce the longest word in the English language, which stretches down a full page near the back of the book. A list of U.S. presidents, the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution are also inside.

Jodi Sorrells, third-grade teacher at Kennedy Elementary School in Winder, was impressed with the quality of the dictionaries her students received Wednesday.

"They are very comprehensive," Sorrells said. "We have children's dictionaries, but these have more words. Most of my students don't have dictionaries at home."

The Dictionary Project was started in 1995 by Mary French in Mt. Pleasant, S.C., to fill the lack in area schools. Almost 4 million dictionaries have been given out since then in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

This is the sixth year for the Dictionary Project in Barrow County. Shelia Hawthorne of Auburn, a retired science teacher, found a story about the Dictionary Project in a newspaper more than six years ago. She recruited her fellow members of the Omicron Chapter of Delta Kappa Gamma, a society of working and retired educators, to bring the project to Barrow County schools.

"Since the inception of this project, there have been a few youngsters who indicated this book was the first new book they had owned," Hawthorne said. "Thank you notes are cute and creative, but ones like this really pull at my heart strings."

Dr. Ron Saunders, superintendent of Barrow County Schools, helped give out dictionaries Wednesday at Kennedy Elementary School with his fellow Rotary Club members.

"As superintendent it is a pleasure to watch the faces of those students when they get their own dictionary," Saunders said. "It really means a lot to the third-graders."

Cale McElrath, 9, Kennedy Elementary third-grader, said he will never let his dictionary go.

"I will keep it forever, because it is my first dictionary," McElrath said.

More information about the Dictionary Project is available at www.dictionaryproject.org.