How many of you remember dictionaries when you were a kid?
I’m not sure the year a dictionary and my eyeballs connected (probably early in my education), but I do remember the Webster’s dictionary my Aunt and Uncle gave me as a high school gift–the most useful and lasting gift I’ve ever received.
John Wilma, a rotarian who ran his own auto shop in Hayward, California, recently gave dictionaries to students at Hayward’s Park Elementary School. The story is in today’s Argus.
Two events in Wilma’s life made him do it. First, he played principal-for-a-day at a local elementary school and noticed 1970-edition dictionaries. When he couldn’t even find the word “computer,” he knew something was wrong. He was right.
Before playing principal, he was amazed when a few guys applying for auto repair jobs at his shop couldn’t fill out job applications without help. That wasn’t o.k., he thought. He was right.
He commented to an Argus reporter: “‘I realized we have people living right here in Hayward, 15 miles from San Francisco, 150 miles from the state capital, who are functionally illiterate…'” He was right.
Rather than working with his Rotarian partner, Ken Meirovitz, to donate paperback dictionaries, he and his friend decided to spend a bit more for hardbound editions–dictionaries containing our language, our heritage, our history, our culture. Books that would last for years in kids’ lives and minds. He was right.
Could kids use their computers to look up words, find their derivations, improve their grammar, become educated and better citizens? I suppose.
As a blogger, I frequently pop up my Mac’s dictionary and thesaurus to check spelling and find more powerful and meaningful words. But that 30 second look-up isn’t like perusing a hardbound dictionary. My Mac’s dictionary is the Reader’s Digest version. My hardbound dictionary gives me greater insights about the English language, the basis of our culture.