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Look It Up: Foundation Gives Third Graders Dictionaries

Sept. 23, 2008 — Sitting and behaving like little ladies and gentlemen, almost 40 third graders at Charles H. Emanuel Elementary School cafeteria waited eagerly Tuesday to get their own personal dictionaries.
In what has become a tradition over the past six years, the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands (CFVI) gave dictionaries to third graders in private and public schools territory-wide. Over that time, CFVI has provided more than 8,700 dictionaries through the Dictionary Project Fund at CFVI.
"We enjoy the enthusiasm of the third-grade students and teachers who use these dictionaries with passion," said Gretta Moorhead, who spearheaded the program.
The foundation partners with the not-for-profit community on St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix and gets help distributing the dictionaries from individual volunteers and businesses, as well as representatives from the Hebrew Congregation of St. Thomas, the St. Croix Foundation, St Croix Rotary Mid Isle and Friends of the St. Croix Public Library.
On Tuesday, Moorhead pointed out a little girl hugging her dictionary.
"I love this book," said student Maishe Peterson.
Moorhead, a former English teacher in the St. Thomas public schools, established the Dictionary Project Fund in 2002 as a permanent fund at CFVI. The original goal of the fund was to distribute dictionaries annually to every third-grade student in public schools. This goal has been surpassed ,and CFVI now gives dictionaries to all non-public third graders as well, according to Moorhead. In all, CFVI distributes dictionaries to 53 schools in the territory.
"We are still finding schools to give dictionaries to," Moorhead said. "We added one today."
Third grade was identified as an ideal time to capture and focus a child's excitement and curiosity about words and language. Children at this age have the reading maturity to use a dictionary as a learning tool; they are becoming independent learners.
"We definitely get a lot of use out of the dictionaries," said Dahlia Francis, third-grade teacher. "I incorporate it in math, science and social studies."
Two people from the St. Croix Foundation, employee Khnuma Simmonds and Program Coordinator Stennett Dariah, helped pass out the dictionaries.
"Giving out dictionaries is fun," Darriah said. "I truly love it."
After passing them out, Darriah asked the students to look up "achieve." A student read the definition, then Darriah told the children, "This dictionary will help you to achieve."
"I want you to take care of your dictionary," she said. "Promise me you will take care of your dictionaries."
The volunteers also love to distribute the dictionaries, Moorhead said.
"They have so much fun they request to distribute them every year," Moorhead said.
The fourth-grade teachers think the dictionaries have been a great resource, and some students come to fourth grade with their dictionaries, said Delicia Espinoza, assistant principal at Charles H. Emanuel.
"Dictionaries are very useful tools the students use now and for many years to come," Espinoza said.
The program is successful because of the volunteers and community donations, Moorhead said. CFVI can always use more donations, she said.
To make a donation, send it to Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands, P.O. Box 11790, St. Thomas, USVI 00801. On the donation indicate "Dictionary Project."
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