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BLOOMINGTON — While some gifts this holiday season will be old before we turn the calendar page, others will be real page-turners used for years.

Jad Carter had one of those gifts in his hands Thursday.

He and other third-grade students at Northpoint Elementary School received the gift of dictionaries from Verizon Foundation about two months ago, and they still are used every day, said teacher Jodi Kinzinger.

Carter likes a lot of things about the dictionary.

"I love the part that tells the name of the number, like ?~quadrillion.' It has 1,000 trillions and 15 zeros," he said.

"The dictionaries were designed for third-graders," Kinzinger said. They were written at their level, which makes them more fun and more useful to the students.

The children held the new books up to their faces and smiled when they got them, Kinzinger recalled.

Children also received dictionaries at schools in Bloomington's District 87, Normal's Unit 5, LeRoy, Lexington, Downs and Heyworth.

"It's a real nice program for our kids," said Tri-Valley Elementary School principal Bob Lishka.

The dictionaries are being distributed to local schools, but it's really each student who receives the book and the dictionaries are theirs to keep, said Karen Boswell, spokeswoman for Verizon.

Last year nationwide, the Verizon Foundation provided grants to buy about 7,500 dictionaries for various Telecom Pioneer organizations to distribute dictionaries to third-grade students, said Boswell.

This year, more than 55,000 dictionaries have been purchased through Verizon Foundation grants, she said.

While they were using their dictionaries in class Thursday, Northpoint students talked about some of their favorite things about their new books.

"I use the Roman numerals sometimes to do math boxes," said Connor Oltman. "We haven't really learned them yet but when we have to write a number several ways I use the dictionary."

"In the back, it tells about the presidents," said Emma Hilten. "I can find when they were president and where they lived."

Maddie Douglass is partial to the "longest word in the world," which is listed in her dictionary. "I think it is really cool, and you can't break it down to say it. I don't know how the scientists can say it."

She said the longest word in the English language has 1,909 letters and is the term for a protein and enzyme that has 267 amino acids, Douglass added.

All three students live in Bloomington.

"The gift of a dictionary is really the one thing the children do not get tired of using. It really has helped them develop pride in their writing," Kinzinger said. Students take more responsibility for spelling things correctly now, she said.

Dictionaries are the gift of choice because low-literacy skills are a problem for individuals, families and businesses, said Boswell. Verizon has targeted literacy as its "signature program" because many people keep it hidden, but it is of national importance.

"A dictionary is perhaps the first and most powerful reference tool a child should own," she said, since its usefulness goes beyond spelling, pronunciation and definitions. It is also a companion for solving problems that arise as a child develops his or her reading, writing, and creative thinking abilities.

Students benefit from an increased self-reliance and resourcefulness inspired by the maxim "look it up" Boswell said.

For the Pantagraph

Students in Jodi Kinzinger's third-grade class at Northpoint Elementary School in Bloomington use dictionaries purchased with a Verizon Foundation grant.

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