The Dictionary Project

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The Dictionary Project
Dictionary Project Logo.png
Founded May 1995
Type 501(c)(3) charitable organization
Focus Education
Area served All 50 United States, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, Canada, and several other countries
Key people

Mary French, Director
Barbara Massey, President

Gretta Moorhead, Board Member
Linda Keetch, Board Member
Diana Krajewski, Board Member
Kathy Jones, Board Member
Tahera Mamdani, Board Member
Clint Schroeder, Board Member
Revenue $4,148,899.40 USD (Year Ending 12/31/11)
Slogan Learn to Read, Read to Learn

The Dictionary Project is a non-profit charitable organization based in Charleston, South Carolina, U.S.A., and was founded by Mary French in 1995 to provide personal copies of a dictionary for third grade students in the South Carolina public school system. It has grown into a national organization. To date, over 19 million dictionaries have been donated to children in the United States and internationally. It is funded through individual donations and by sponsors who implement the program in their local schools. All contributions are tax deductible. The Dictionary Project is registered as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit association in all 50 United States.

Organization goals[edit]

The purpose of The Dictionary Project is to provide dictionaries to students to keep to use as their own personal reference books. The project believes that a dictionary is an essential tool for a quality education and that a student cannot do his or her best work without one. A dictionary in the home serves as a resource for the whole family. It improves everyone’s vocabulary and it encourages children to learn more words. This organization seeks to provide dictionaries to all of the children who are in school. The program is typically implemented in the third grade each year.

Organization history and growth[edit]

The idea for The Dictionary Project began in 1992 when Annie Plummer of Savannah, Georgia gave 50 dictionaries to children who attended a school close to her home. In her lifetime she raised the money to buy 17,000 dictionaries for children in Savannah, Georgia. Annie Plummer died December 23, 1999, but her dream did not die with her. She inspired the creation of The Dictionary Project, a nonprofit organization.

The Dictionary Project was created in 1995 as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in Charleston, South Carolina. Its original goal was to provide dictionaries to third graders in the public schools in the three counties surrounding Charleston, and this was accomplished in the 1995-96 school year and every year since. In 2001 the project was expanded to cover the third graders in all of South Carolina’s public schools.

The project grew tremendously after it was featured in an article on the front page of The Wall Street Journal on March 4, 2002 [1] This coverage brought national attention to the project and its founders, Mary and Arno French. As a result, individuals and groups from across the United States became involved with The Dictionary Project and sponsored the donation of dictionaries to children in their local schools.

The project continues to expand and now includes sponsors in all fifty United States, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, Canada, and several other countries. The program has been adopted by civic organizations and adapted to local communities through the sponsorship of Rotary Clubs, BPO Elks, Kiwanis Clubs, Granges, Pioneer Volunteer groups, Lions Clubs, the Republican Federation of Women and other service organizations, by educational groups such as PTAs, by businesses, and by individuals. Anyone can participate in this project by sponsoring a program to give dictionaries to children in their community.


Anyone can sponsor a project. Organizations and donors carry out their own fund-raising activities, and then sponsor the donation of books in the schools or area they choose. The project asks its sponsors to commit time to deliver the dictionaries to the children in person and make a short presentation that shows them how to use the dictionaries. This brief visit lets the children know that there are people in their community who are interested in their education and want to see them succeed.

Awards and recognition[edit]

The Dictionary Project and its Director Mary French have been awarded several notable honors, including:

  • Mayor Rybak of Minneapolis, Minnesota, declared March 20, 2009, Dictionary Day in honor of Mary French's work to create the Dictionary Project and their Rotary Clubs' sponsorship of the Minneapolis Public Schools (2009)
  • the Daughters of the American Revolution National Community Service Award (2003)
  • S. C. Secretary of State Angel List (2002)

In addition, sponsors who have implemented the project have been recognized:

  • Larry Hutchinson received a certificate of recognition from Chet Culver, the Governor of Iowa, for his work to coordinate the efforts of the civic organizations to give a dictionary to all of the third grade students in their state (2008)
  • The California Dictionary Project received a Silicon Valley Impact Grant from the Cisco Foundation.
  • Mr. and Mrs. Ormonde and Margaret Smith received the Gold Award from the Texas Association of Partners in Education.
  • The Rotary Clubs of Arizona were commended by Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano for their participation in The Dictionary Project.

Media coverage[edit]

The Dictionary Project has been featured by ABC News, The Wall Street Journal, American Profile, KOTV News, and The State (newspaper).

International projects[edit]

In recent years, The Dictionary Project has been receiving interest from international organizations wishing to expand the program overseas, as well as from US-based organizations who want to contribute to improving the education of school children in foreign and developing countries through the use of the English language. They hope to distribute more dictionaries to children outside of the United States in the coming years.

Form 990 and tax forms[edit]

The Dictionary Project is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization registered in all 50 states. IRS Form 990 and state registration information are available to the public and can be obtained upon request by writing to Post Office Box 1845, Charleston, SC 29402.


External links[edit]