PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Though its name may sound like that of a prehistoric dinosaur, third-graders at Zippel Elementary School learned last week just how valuable a tool a thesaurus can be.
On Sept. 29 — for the fifth consecutive year — members of the Presque Isle Rotary Club donated thesauruses to third-graders at Zippel and Mapleton elementary schools. Students at Easton Elementary School will receive their books once school resumes following harvest recess.
“Five years ago I was president of the Presque Isle Rotary Club, and as all presidents do, I was looking at our goals for the year,” said Rotarian Sharon Campbell. “Rotary International asked us to do literacy projects in our local communities. Literacy throughout the world — including our own neighborhoods — is a foundation of Rotary International.
“I got the idea from an article in the Rotarian magazine where another club had purchased dictionaries for students,” she said. “After doing some research of our own school system, it was decided to provide thesauruses to the children. Our goal was to give them to the children, so they could take them to fourth and fifth grades and get the value of the book and the value of the message … that somebody besides their parents and their teachers thinks that learning and literacy are important.”
More than a dozen Rotarians volunteered to go into the classrooms and help deliver 160 books. The thesauruses cost the club about $1,200.
Teacher Teresa Summerson said the third-graders love getting their own thesauruses.
“They have so much fun looking through it; we use it a lot in our writing and the children are always looking for a different way to say something rather than using the same word all the time,” she said.
“Having a thesaurus exposes them to more things and increases their vocabulary. From the beginning of the year to the end of the year, I notice that their vocabulary expands,” said Summerson. “The thesauruses are right at their fingertips; they don’t have to get up and go get a book. Throughout the week, the kids are constantly pulling out the thesaurus and saying, ‘Look at the word I found. Look at the word I found.’ They get excited about it, and many of this year’s fourth- and fifth-graders still have them in their classrooms.”
Student Aidan Johnson said it was “pretty cool” to receive his own thesaurus.
“I like that we get to keep it,” he said. “I’ll be able to use my thesaurus a lot. Whenever I’m writing things I’ll just open up to the page and figure out a different word to use so I don’t have to use the same one over and over.
While she has many books at home, this is Emma Postell’s first thesaurus.
“We have a small dictionary at home, but I’ve never had a thesaurus before,” she said. “It will help me find new words.”
When asked to find another word for “rich,” Postell quickly flipped through the pages of her new thesaurus to find such words as “wealthy,” “comfortable,” “well-to-do,” “affluent” and “prosperous.”
“The thesaurus also has words in red that are the opposite,” she said. “The opposite of rich is poor.
Campbell said the Thesaurus Project has created quite a buzz among area students.
“We’ve got a lot of kids talking about it … they have been waiting to be in third grade as their siblings have gotten a thesaurus along the way,” the Rotarian said. “It also gets kids talking about Rotary which is great. It helps the kids understand about community service … it’s not just about parents and teachers wanting them to learn, it’s about the entire community being supportive of schools.”