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 various other countries
Key people
Mary French, Director
Gretta Moorhead, President
Barbara Moushon, Board Member
Tahera Mamdani, Board Member
Douglas Boggie, Board Member
$4,070,438 USD (Year Ending 12/31/17)

The Dictionary Project is a 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 30 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.

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. 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. 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 various 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.

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 NFL/Parade Magazine Community Quarterback Award (2003)
  • the Daughters of the American Revolution National Community Service Award (2003)
  • the American Red Cross, Carolina Lowcountry Chapter Neighborhood Hero (2002)
  • S. C. Secretary of State Angel List (2002)
  • the JC Penney Golden Rule Award (2000)
  • invitations to speak at conventions for Rotary International, the National Grange, and the TelecomPioneers.

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.


  1. ^ "Wall Street Journal Article". Wall Street Journal. March 4, 2002.

External links[edit]