Annie Zizumbo, Jace Young, Liam Robbins, Xander King, Megan Sanchez and Jasmine Panosovets grab dictionaries from Tualco Grange volunteers at Fryelands Elementary in Monroe on Thursday, Nov. 30.
Annie Zizumbo, Jace Young, Liam Robbins, Xander King, Megan Sanchez and Jasmine Panosovets grab dictionaries from Tualco Grange volunteers at Fryelands Elementary in Monroe on Thursday, Nov. 30.
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Every Monroe School District third-grader was handed a fresh dictionary by volunteers from the Tualco Grange last week.

Thousands of students have received the thick paperbacks since the Words for Thirds program was established locally 13 years ago. Volunteers visited five elementary schools and passed out dictionaries last week.

“I kind of felt a little excited,” said Miles Skelly, giving a shy smile.

The 8-year-old was told by his teacher what he and his peers would be gifted before they entered Fryelands Elementary’s library Thursday afternoon. He plans to take good care of the new title. He will be required to keep his book at school until the year ends.

In the past, teachers used to be able to surprise their classes, said the Tualco Grange community service chair and project coordinator Leslie Jo Wells. They would wait until the kids were gathered with the volunteers. The program has been going on for so long that everyone’s sister or brother has a copy of “The Best Dictionary for Students.” They know what is coming and what to expect now, she said.

The national Order of the Patrons of Husbandry, commonly known as the Grange, was formed in 1867, exactly 150 years ago on Monday. According to the Monroe Historical Society, the Tualco Grange started in 1909. Throughout the country granges focus on community service work and preserving agriculture.

The Grange promotes The Dictionary Project through Words for Thirds, according to the organization. About 200,000 volunteers that are a part of the Grange’s national network have helped put dictionaries in the hands of more than 500,000 students.

“It started out as a National Grange project,” Wells had said. “They sent out word to all the granges. Our state adopted it as a state program, and then we adopted it. The first year we distributed dictionaries was 2004. Those kids are now out of high school.”

Wells said she was told by a Frank Wagner Elementary teacher this year that one of his former students said they had kept their book through college. Each year the Tualco Grange raises hundreds of dollars through the Evergreen State Fair exhibition and pancake breakfasts to fund the project. In recent years they have spent $648 on the books. She said the Grange is able to purchase them at an incredibly affordable price — about $1.25 per copy.

According to the South Carolina-based The Dictionary Project nonprofit, third grade is the “dividing line between learning to read and reading to learn,” which is why that age group is targeted.

“The goal of this program is to assist all students in becoming good writers, active readers, creative thinkers, and resourceful learners by providing them with their own personal dictionary,” according to The Dictionary Project.

Ezra Regalado said he is looking forward to using his for research. Kayla Christopher said her new resource will help her boost her writing skills.

The 9-year-old said she knows how to use a dictionary; her mother taught her at home. Her personal copy at school will make accessing the accurate way to spell out words much easier — before they had to use a large book with a cumbersome hardcover.