Julianne Mattera
Special to The Oakland Press

In a well-worn dictionary that Jen Wright has regularly thumbed through since elementary school, words are circled and playful notes point to newfound terms, chronicling Wright’s path through the English language.

“Your reality is absolutely the words that you hear,” said Wright, a Royal Oak-based blogger who writes for lookingglasslane.com. “We craft our world through words, so to give a child that is a very powerful thing.”

Wright’s hope for Detroit, a city that’s no stranger to bad publicity, helped her connect with Erin Rose — a blogger from Ferndale and one-woman show behind PositiveDetroit.net, which highlights good things happening in the city and the surrounding metro area.

Like Wright, Rose had a dictionary and other tools at her disposal when she was growing up that helped writing become a natural and enjoyable process. Without those tools, writing would have been arduous and very difficult, Rose said.

Driven to create change in the Metro Detroit area, Rose, Wright and other local female bloggers are teaming up with Operation: Kid Equip, a Berkley-based nonprofit, to help bring dictionaries to third-graders in Ferndale Public Schools.

On Wednesday, 58 third-graders at John F. Kennedy School in Oak Park got new dictionaries due to the bloggers’ and nonprofit’s efforts in reaching out to the community.

“Just to help children understand their language and learning new words to add to their vocabulary, I think will be very important,” said Dina Krause, principal at Roosevelt Primary School in Ferndale, which is scheduled to receive dictionaries for its third-graders on Friday.

“Having each child have his or her own dictionary will also help out and support their writing when they’re doing their writing projects, science or social studies projects. Being able to go in and look up words that they may or may not know, and having that right at the tip of their hands will be very, very helpful.”

Through March 15, the bloggers and Operation: Kid Equip will be tweeting, blogging and posting on their Facebook pages to raise funds to deliver dictionaries to roughly 2,700 third-graders in Oakland County.

But why old-school, paper-bound dictionaries?

“Technology is the easiest way to get the word out and to reach a lot of people,” said Becks Davis, a participating blogger who writes detroitmoxie.com. “But what we sometimes forget is, a lot of these kids, they don’t have computers at home. They can’t jump onto dictionary.com or have a spell check while they’re typing.”

And so far, the viral promotion is going well.

Two weeks after the bloggers simultaneously announced the project in December, sufficient funds were raised to give a dictionary to each third-grader at Roosevelt Primary School and John F. Kennedy School.

“I think people see that its not just throwing money away,” said Menachem-Michael Kniespeck, co-founder of Operation: Kid Equip. “They’re truly investing in a child’s future.”

Kniespeck’s organization focuses on getting school supplies to students from low-income backgrounds around southeastern Michigan.

Because of the economy, many kids are coming to school without school supplies that are essential to gaining an education, Kniespeck said, adding that his organization is investing in children instead of pouring money into a problem.

And soon, third-graders in the Hazel Park School District will be looking forward to crates of dictionaries coming their doorstep — they’re next up on the nonprofit and bloggers’ list.

Wright has no doubt that a few or more of the dictionaries could end up collecting dust in a closet or lost on the floor of a school bus, but it’s important to make these tools available to students since one of them could be the next Henry Ford, she said.

“I’m really excited to see who Detroit makes next,” Wright said. “If we’re trying to craft a new generation and words are so powerful, a dictionary is a perfect place to start.”


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