OSWEGO, NY Ã¢â‚¬â€œ The Oswego Elks gave third graders a tool to help the students excel in third grade and beyond.
Following a decision by the New York State Elks Association to adopt a new youth oriented program, the Oswego Elks Lodge #271, in 2004, embarked on their effort to support “The Dictionary Program.”
This is an attempt by the state association to put a student dictionary in the hands of every third grader in the state.
Oswego, which has long been a supporter and advocate of youth in the area, decided to join this worthy and ambitious cause.
The program is the brainchild of Mrs. Mary French, according to Fred Byrne and Bill Reedy (the two local Elks delivering dictionaries recently).
She began the program in 1995 in Charleston, SC, they explained.
She believed that a child cannot do his or her best work without a dictionary and made it her mission to distribute them to as many third graders as possible.
By 1999, realizing that reading is the most important skill of all and the starting point for the economic and social opportunities the world has to offer, she and a board of directors and a network of volunteers had raised enough money to put this rich and powerful tool in the hands of every public school third grader in her state.
Since that time, the program has expanded nationwide to all 50 states. Since the inception of the project, 11,498,490 students have received dictionaries.
In 2004, more than 830,000 were distributed. In 2008, 2,417,994 were presented to third graders, according to the Elks.
At this time, there are more than 225,000 third graders enrolled in New York State schools.
During the five years that the Oswego lodge has been involved in the project, approximately 3,000 dictionaries have been purchased by the organization and handed out locally, at no cost to the district.
The first year, they were given to every third grader in the Oswego City School District as well as the Trinity Catholic School and Oswego Community Christian School.
Three years ago, the local Elks expanded the program to also include third graders in the Mexico and Pulaski districts.
The project itself involves representatives of the Fraternal Order going into each and every third grade classroom to talk to the students and explain the reason for visit, describe the program, distribute the dictionaries and answer the many questions that arise.
Besides presenting the children with dictionaries, the Elks, who support Drug Awareness programs, also distribute anti-drug coloring books and bookmarks.
The distribution project, which started out as a way to help today’s youth has proven to be a labor of love for the members of the Elks Lodge.
It is the aim of the Oswego Elks to continue this program indefinitely, because one of their mottoes states: “Elks Care Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Elks Share.”