Sept. 25, 2008 — Members of the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands distributed dictionaries to third grade students Thursday morning at the Joseph Sibilly Elementary School as part of the group's territory-wide Dictionary Project.
The presentation is one of a series given by local volunteers from each school. The Sibilly volunteers Wednesday showed the students how to use the dictionaries by giving them words to look up, write on the board, and read definitions aloud. The process got the children excited about having a personal dictionary.
"I'm going to use my dictionary for helping me if I don't know a word while reading," explained Sibilly third-grade student Au'daijah Harvey.
Through the project, which is in it's sixth year, dictionaries are given to third grade students of every public, private, and parochial school in the Virgin Islands.
"The original goal was to get them in public schools" such as Sibilly, said Gretta Moorehead, a CFVI volunteer and the founder of the project, "and then we found it was so easy to do that we gradually began adding, island by island, the private schools and the church schools."
Moorehead, who used to be a teacher herself, chose the third grade as recipients of the dictionaries because she feels it is a critical time in the children's academic development.
"The third grade is the age when they are becoming independent readers. The dictionaries help with critical thinking and language skills," Moorehead explained.
Hendricks, the third grade teacher at Sibilly, plans to use the dictionaries to help students reading and writing skills. The children are being tested to identify their reading level and can use the dictionaries to look up words they don't know and on their spelling and vocabulary lists.
The whole process is integral to the success of the students as well as the school, which is looking to raise its overall scores on the territorial standardized tests in March. This goal parallels that of the project, which highlights in its brochure that 70 percent of fifth grade students in the USVI read below the level of an average fifth grade student.
"We spend time on the dictionaries just to make sure that these kids have the necessary skills that'll take them further in language arts," said Dr. Lois Hassell-Habtes, principal of the school, "It's the foundation for the rest of their lives."
The representative from the CFVI was Foundation Director Beverly Chongasing, who explained that the project is funded with donations from the community. The dictionaries are purchased from a company founded solely for this purpose, selling the dictionaries at a low price to sponsors of dictionary projects across the nation.
Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.