Kiwanis Club supports third graders’ transition from ‘Learning to Read’ to ‘Reading to Learn’

Published 12:54 pm Thursday, March 23, 2023

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Along with computer laptops and new-fangled whiteboards to help them learn in today’s high-tech world, every third-grade student in Polk County’s four elementary schools now has an old-school resource to help them with reading and writing—a brand new, soft-cover Merriam Webster dictionary of their very own. 

From A to Z, these young students are flipping pages and searching words for their meaning and spelling. And they are excited about the hands-on opportunity to learn new words in an old-fashioned way. Thanks to the Kiwanis Club of Tryon, nearly 200 Polk County third graders have been excited to look up new words and create opportunities to use new vocabulary.  

Now in its fifth year, this project was spearheaded by Kiwanian Mary Sasser after talking with a Sunny View Elementary teacher she’d met during the Kiwanis Club’s TERRIFIC Kid recognition program. Sasser encouraged other Kiwanians to support this program through personal contributions until it became a part of the club’s annual budget.

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“With a focus on the needs of children in our community, our Kiwanis Club is always looking to make the difference,” Linda Greensfelder, club president, said. “When I helped deliver these resource books to the students, I witnessed firsthand the thrill and appreciation from the kids. They were happy to flip through their very own dictionary, and many wrote a ‘thank you note’ using new words they’d discovered.” 

Polk County teachers also responded with appreciation for the class resource, expressing that third grade is the dividing line between ‘learning to read’ and ‘reading to learn.’

Third grade is the beginning of a new era for students as more is expected of students. Not only are students taking their first standardized test, but we work on essays and projects throughout the year. Students need to have a resource for both vocabulary and spelling . . . Whether online or in book form, dictionaries are a very important part of a child’s education as students continue to grow in their knowledge of vocabulary and spelling words correctly,” wrote Tryon Elementary teacher Kelly Welch. 

“Our students were elated to receive their own personal dictionary earlier this year. . .  They also love reading all of the ‘extra’ information found at the back of the dictionary, such as the information on states, presidents, and the solar system. In third grade, we begin learning how to use a dictionary as a resource to help with our spelling and writing. It is more meaningful to the students to have their own copy of a dictionary to use for this purpose,” wrote Saluda Elementary teacher Melissa Gillespie.

“My third-grade class especially enjoyed all the additional information such as facts about the solar system, states, countries, maps and scientific definitions. They loved the scavenger hunt we made using the dictionary and frequently use the dictionaries to look up unknown words,” reported Jennifer Schweitzer with Tryon Elementary. 

“Our third-grade students have enjoyed their dictionaries. They keep them in their desks and continue to use them with vocabulary words. They also enjoy the special features in the back like the maps and presidents sections as well as the solar system. They are at the age where interests are high still from a book, like a library book. Each year, third-grade students from Sunny View have appreciated this gift and resource for learning,” reported Sunny View teacher Chip Cash.

“Our third-grade students at Polk Central love being given dictionaries every year! They love having a dictionary to call their own, as well as using it throughout the school year while we learn new vocabulary words, finding synonyms/antonyms, and helping strength our students speaking/writing vocabulary,” reported Ashlyn Searcy with Polk Central. 

While educators see third grade as the dividing line between ‘learning to read’ and ‘reading to learn,’ Kiwanis Club of Tryon views this as another beneficial service project. “Like Terrific Kids and Key Club, this is another great project we’re proud to sponsor in our schools,” Greensfelder said.

For more information about the local Kiwanis Club, please go Lunch and meetings are held each Wednesday at noon at the Congregational Church in Tryon. Visitors are always welcome! 

Kiwanis Club of Tryon is a volunteer organization dedicated to transforming our community & our world, one child & one family at a time.  



Submitted by Kathy Woodham