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When Kitty Harper was a teacher at Metter Elementary School in Metter, Ga., she heard about a Savannah, Ga., community activist who donated dictionaries to students. Ms. Harper made herself a promise: She would take time to do the same when she retired.

Now retired, Ms. Harper is known as the "Dictionary Lady" around Metter, her hometown. She kept her vow to give every 3rd grader in the community a dictionary for two reasons.

First, in her 27 years of teaching, she had heard every possible excuse for homework assignments that went undone, including a lack of a dictionary. "I had that excuse from at least one or two students every time, so I knew the need was great," Ms. Harper said.

Second, 3rd graders are still excited about whatever you give them, she said. And the 168 3rd graders at Metter Elementary had plenty to be excited about when Ms. Harper presented each of them with a new paperback dictionary in February.

She didn't do it alone, however. By her side was Annie Plummer, the Savannah activist who was her inspiration. Together, the two received enough donations from local businesses and individuals to buy the books--at a generous discount.

For her efforts, the Dictionary Lady has received plenty of thanks from students and teachers, especially from Principal Charlotte Jones.

"We are very appreciative to her," Ms. Jones said. "It is a practical and valuable service to our children. A lot of these children don't have any books at home. I hope we can continue this forever."

While forever may be a long shot for Ms. Harper, she does have her heart set on making the program an annual event. For now, though, she will settle for trying to expand the donations to 3rd graders in the one other elementary school.

If she is successful, she said, she and the Dictionary Lady of Savannah will get together with yet another Dictionary Lady, from the Hilton Head, S.C., area, and put together some materials to teach others how to do the same thing.

"Students have gotten a lot out of it--more than just dictionaries," Ms. Harper said.

The Council for Exceptional Children has named Nancy D. Safer its new executive director. Ms. Safer, a leader in the field of special education, joined the cec two years ago as the deputy director.

As the director, she will provide strategic and operational leadership in the management and coordination of the Reston, Va.-based organization.

--Adrienne D. Coles
acoles@epe.org

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