BURRILLVILLE – For Nancy Vermillion, it’s a familiar routine.
Every fall, Vermillion, a member of the Burrillville Lions Club, packs up her car with cases of books to bring to local elementary schools.
But like everything in 2020, this year is different.
The books, 540-page paperback dictionaries, will go to 3rd grade students at four local schools.
Normally, Vermillion would speak to classrooms of students, explaining the program and how to use the new resource.
Instead, this year, the mask-wearing do-gooder carted the books up to school doors for drop off. It will be up to principals and teachers to see that they get into the hands of students, many of whom are now learning from home.
The program is run through The Dictionary Project, a national non-profit based in South Carolina that aims to get the books into the hands of third graders across America. According to the group’s mission statement, the goal is to assist all students in becoming good writers, active readers, creative thinkers, and resourceful learners by providing them with their own personal dictionary.
Their mission statement notes that educators see third grade as the dividing line between, “learning to read and reading to learn,” and encourages donors to gift them to children during that school year.
Lions clubs are among the organizations across the country that sponsor the program in their hometowns, purchasing and delivering the books to local students.
The Burrilllville chapter, which serves both the town and neighboring North Smithfield, has been taking part since 2014.
“When we started in 2014, and we really only gave to Burrillville,” explained Vermillion.
In 2015, North Smithfield elementary was added and now, the club provides the books to every single third grade student in both towns annually.
Each year, Vermillion, who spearheads the local club’s effort, orders boxes of the latest edition and coordinates delivery with local educators.
In 2020, 83 dictionaries went to Callahan Elementary School, and another 65 to Steere Farm in Burrillville. At North Smithfield Elementary School, Vermillion dropped off 115 books and at Pascoag Community Christian the dictionaries will be given to the two students that make up 2020’s third grade class.
But in place of her normal interaction with the recipients, a letter addressed to administrators, staff and students accompanied the boxes of gifts.
“These dictionaries have been specially published for your use and enjoyment during your elementary school years and are your to keep forever,” it stated. “These books are not school department property, but the property of the students.”
“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic protocols and cautions, we are unable to present these dictionaries to you in person, but trust that your principal and teachers will be sure that each and every third grader receives a book.”
Callahan Principal David Brissette said he will be meeting with the school’s third grade team to come up with a plan to distribute the books to distance learning families. All of the other students received a dictionary from their classroom teacher.
“On behalf of the Callahan School, we would like to send a message of gratitude to the Burrillville Lions Club for their continued support of our students,” said Brissette. “The club has been doing this for many years and benefiting many students with their generous gift of a dictionary for each of our 3rd grade students. We are so lucky that they think of us each and every year.”
More than just a book of definitions, the dictionaries include 150 pages of supplemental information with features including the U.S. Constitution; the Declaration of Independence; brief biographies of all of the country’s presidents; world maps; information about all 50 states; countries of the world and planets in the solar system; sign language and braille.
Published by Dictionary Project, Inc., A Student’s Dictionary 26th Edition, is appropriate for students in grades three and up.
It’s part of an ongoing mission to increase literacy among area students from a club with the motto, “Where there’s a need, there’s a Lion: We serve.”
“Reading is forever,” the letter from the club notes. “Be a life-long reader and learner.”