By Julia Colborn
In honor of Noah Webster, National Dictionary Day has been celebrated annually on October 16, his birthday. This year, the Rolesville satellite group of the Wake Forest Kiwanis chapter went to Rolesville and Sanford Creek elementary schools to distribute dictionaries to the third-grade classrooms – part of the 7,000 third graders receiving dictionaries across Wake County.
The Kiwanis – whose slogan is “Serving the Children of the World” – is a volunteer group established 100 years ago to assist local communities and the betterment of individuals. Gordon Coleman helped institute the Rolesville chapter about six months ago, and he has become a liaison between the schools and the Kiwanis, keeping in touch about needs for supplies, food, volunteers or whatever else the school might be short on. He then brings it to the attention of the group, about a dozen Rolesville citizens of varying ages, who vote on if and how they would be able to assist. Although they can’t do everything, they do as much as they can. “We have a passion to help out, and all really love this community,” Coleman said.
The children seemed pleasantly surprised by the gift of dictionaries. In small groups, the volunteers went from classroom to classroom handing out dictionaries and giving a short oral presentation. The presenter would ask such questions as “Who knows what a dictionary is?” and the hands would fly up. For practice, they were instructed to look up “trust,” then “respect” and a student volunteer read the definition out loud. Participation varied from class to class. Some students were shy, looking at the foreign words with wide-eyed wonderment; others had students practically jumping out of their seat to read aloud.
Sarah Fleming, a third-grade teacher at Sanford Creek, has noticed over the years that fewer kids know what a dictionary is, often opting to use tools such as Google instead. Parts of speech are a large part of the third-grade curriculum, and the dictionaries are a way for students to actually practice the lesson.
“It really is a great resource for them,” she says. The Kiwanis visits are one of Fleming’s favorite school activities because of this. “The kids always love it,” she adds.
This dictionary distribution gives city officials a chance to reach out to the community as well. Mayor Frank Eagles was able to take the morning and visit both schools, touching base with more than half the appointed classrooms. The classes were excited to see him because he’s a familiar and friendly face since he often participates in school activities.
The classroom visits were concluded with a brief reiteration of the importance of dictionaries, and an adage even adults could use:
“When you don’t know how to spell it, pronounce it or what it means, look it up!”
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