PEPPERELL -- Members of Pepperell's Prescott Grange passed out a dictionary to every third-grader at Varnum Brook Elementary School last week as part of a nationwide program that aims to augment children's vocabulary and foster a love of reading and learning.
"It helps encourage them to read. They learn how to spell, there's an atlas in there, they learn the presidents. It really gets them to learn how to use the dictionary, because the computer doesn't always give them the right answer," said Linda Starr, Prescott Grange member.
Member David Gage said Prescott Grange has been distributing the dictionaries for about four years.
To pay for the books, they raise money by selling items such as coffee and baked goods at the Pepperell farmers market. This year, the books cost $240, Starr said.
When the dictionaries are distributed, the school challenges students to complete a scavenger hunt. Though it is optional, if they turn in their papers with all correct answers, they are entered in a drawing to win a T-shirt.
This is to encourage students to familiarize themselves with the dictionary in a way that is directed but still fun. "It's less intimidating if you have something to hunt for," said member Jean Danforth.
Varnum Brook Guidance Counselor Kevin Nelson said most students continue to use the dictionaries for years.
"If you ask the fourth- and fifth-graders where their dictionaries are, they know exactly where they are," Nelson said.
"Most of them do it because they want that T-shirt, but also because they like being right," he said.
Gage said over the years he has seen a positive response from the students, who are consistently excited to receive their copies.
"The second-graders will see this and look forward to next year to get their dictionary," Gage said.
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