Third-graders buzzed with excitement last Thursday as Peconic Landing residents handed them personalized dictionaries.
This year, local residents and volunteers at the Greenport facility distributed 425 dictionaries to students at more than 10 schools from Riverhead to Shelter Island.
Forty-five of them, which were used during a lesson with Peconic Landing resident Joe McKay, were given to Southold Elementary School children last week.
Mr. McKay, who teaches a class at the residential community called “Crazy About Words,” spoke to third-graders about the importance of words and language, using games to help them understand how to use their new dictionaries. First, he asked each child to find the section of the book — which also contains an atlas and animal gazette — that began with the first letter of their first name. They then had to find a five-letter word they didn’t know and learn the definition.
“I call this a game, ‘Dictionary Diving,’ ” Mr. McKay said. “You’re diving into the dictionary trying to find words you don’t know, that you’ve never known before. You can actually do it by just opening the page and [pointing to a word].”
Words students learned included atlas, gourd and regal, which they read aloud to the group.
The event was part of the Dictionary Project, which launched in 1995 in Charleston, S.C., and aims to give elementary students across the country their first dictionaries.
Peconic Landing residents who belong to the facility’s Lifetime Learning Committee, along with local volunteers, distribute the books to elementary schools across the North Fork on an annual basis.
“Up until the third grade, kids are learning to read,” Mr. McKay said. “But around sometime in the third grade things switch over a little bit and they begin to read to learn. So that’s why we got involved in the Dictionary Project.”
Last Thursday, Mr. McKay was joined by Peconic Landing residents Edward and Joan Porco and volunteer Pat Del Giorno of Mattituck.
“The dictionary has about 10,000 words,” Mr. McKay told students. “The average adult in the United States knows about 25,000 words. So this is a beginning for you. This is the beginning of an exciting future in the whole business of language.”
Photo: Southold Elementary School students were given personalized dictionaries Dec. 8. (Credit: Nicole Smith)