Deza Fields opened up her dictionary, pointed to the word “mystical” and yelled, “I found it!”
Deza said she plans to use her new Student’s Dictionary to learn new words instead of using the Internet.
“Every day, I’m going to read, not be on the computer,” Deza said.
Deza was among 38 Indian Queen Elementary school third-graders to receive the dictionaries from the Indian Head Highway Area Action Council’s Dictionary Initiative, which aims to bring dictionaries to south county schools. The council, a community group focused on south county issues, offers dictionaries to schools as funds are available to make the purchases, said Sarah Cavitt, project chair of the initiative.
Cavitt has been distributing books since the program started in 2004. She said that while students live in a new era of electronic tablets, laptops and computers, nothing beats having the old-fashioned book because it doesn’t need anything else to work.
“I want you to think about this dictionary as a wireless spell-checker,” Cavitt said to the Fort Washington school’s third-graders, who were excited to receive the books. “It doesn’t require batteries. It doesn’t require a charger.”
Cavitt said the books will help the students not only learn new words during their formative reading years, but also makes the children feel special to receive something.
When Chelsea Mayanja, 8, of Fort Washington received her dictionary, she immediately flipped to the back page, where the longest word in the English language was listed. She said she got about halfway through the word before it became really tough to pronounce.
“I feel happy because it has cool stuff in it,” Chelsea said. “I can learn a lot of stuff.”
Darcy Rivera, 9, of Fort Washington quietly flipped through her dictionary, looking at the words while other students excitedly chatted around her. She said she was excited to look up words.
“I’ve never had a dictionary before,” Darcy said.
Principal Aundrea McCall, Indian Queen Elementary principal for two years, said this was the first time her administration has been able to get the dictionaries from the initiative. Last year, the school didn’t receive dictionaries because there wasn’t enough funding at the time, Cavitt said.
Now that the students have the dictionaries, McCall plans to work with their teachers to give students small assignments, such as looking up words and using them in sentences, to keep the children using the book.
“It is an opportunity for them to have something hands-on,” McCall said. “It is something that is theirs they can carry around ... it is something that specially belongs to them.”