Dictionaries are a treasure-trove of delight, a resource beyond compare and a necessity. So it is no surprise that one of my favorite organizations is The Dictionary Project. Dedicated to helping students become better readers, creative writers and resourceful learners a personal dictionary is given to students to use in school and at home. Volunteer organizations around the United States give dictionaries to third graders as this grade is the transition between learning to read and reading to learn.
The idea for The Dictionary Project came from a woman by the name of Annie Plummer who lived in Savannah, Georgia. Each year she gave dictionaries to some children who went to a nearby school. In her lifetime she gave away over 17,000 dictionaries. Around the same time, Bonnie Beeferman from Hilton Head, South Carolina heard of the project and started giving dictionaries to students in Hilton Head and Charleston. Bonnie received so many requests for dictionaries she asked for help from the community
Enter Mary French, a Charleston mother of two and community volunteer, who started providing dictionaries in Charleston and Summerville with the goal of providing dictionaries to all third graders in South Carolina. She realized very quickly that this project needed serious funding. In 1995, together with her husband, she formed a 501(C)(3) and with a Board of Directors, The Dictionary Project was born.
In 2002 The Dictionary Project went national and went on to include students in all 50 states. Rotary Clubs, Lions, Clubs, Kiwanis, the Grange, the Elks Lodge and many other community organizations sponsor projects where they live. Distribution of dictionaries to date stands at 14,756,000 with 2,461,000 in 2010 alone.
International projects in Central and South America and Africa are the newest addition to The Dictionary Project.