by Sarah Einselen
ROYAL CENTER —
Nine-year-old Kiera Osborn looked down at the dictionary she’d just been handed. “I can keep it?” she asked with surprise in her voice.
Lions club vice president Victor Sell told Kiera that yes — it was her very own.
The Lucerne Lions Club donated 78 dictionaries to the third-grade students at Pioneer Elementary School late last week in the first year of what leaders hope to turn into an annual partnership with the school.
The dictionaries, each in paperback with maps, historical documents and other reference information in the back — and a line to write a young owner’s name in the front — are part of a project coordinated by the Lions Clubs International. Lucerne Lions president Allen Shank said local club members voted unanimously earlier this spring to bring the project to Royal Center.
Third-grade teachers at Pioneer called the dictionaries “a perfect tool” for developing students’ independence in accessing information. Kim Schroder, who’s taught for almost 20 years, said she’s most recently been having students look up words in her classroom dictionaries to learn about states of matter — solids, liquids and gases.
“As they’re reading, we’ve worked on having to look up words on their own so they can find out the meanings,” said Schroder. Students use both physical dictionaries and the digital one on her interactive whiteboard, but during small group projects the physical dictionaries are ideal.
Average students in their formative years learn about 3,000 new words per year, or about 8 per day, according to The Dictionary Project, with which Lions Clubs International has partnered for the dictionary donations.
One of Schroder’s students, 9-year-old Kwintin Heiny of Logansport, said his favorite word he’s learned recently is “condensation.” Kiera’s is “evaporation,” she said.
School librarian Mary Lou Rutledge said that with the Lions’ donation this week, all students in third through fifth grades now have access to one dictionary per student in their classrooms — and that should help with learning to alphabetize as well as expand students’ vocabulary.
“We have them look in dictionaries all the time,” Rutledge added, “so they know how to spell the words, pronounce them, where to put the emphasis.” That’s more than a computer spell-check program provides, she pointed out.
“I think the sooner they start, the better they are. That way they get used to it before they get too far into computers.”
And giving each student his or her own dictionary makes it more likely that students will take the initiative to look up words, said Pioneer Elementary principal Beth Dean.
Lions Clubs International has donated almost 286,000 books since first partnering with The Dictionary Project in 2002. During a local project’s first year, Lions Clubs International covers the cost of the dictionaries, then for every year after, a local Lions club buys dictionaries by the case to give to new third-graders. A case of 24 student dictionaries costs a local Lions club $30, Shank said.
“As far as the cost goes, even when we start paying for them, the cost is going to be reasonable,” he said. And its return, he added, will be valuable to the students.
The 22-member Lucerne Lions intend to contact other local Lions clubs to explore a joint donation next year, Shank said.
Sarah Einselen is news editor for the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 574-732-5151.
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