By Candace Birkelbach

Killeen Daily Herald

HARKER HEIGHTS – Harker Heights Elementary students gathered in the school cafeteria Thursday to receive a new dictionary from the Central Texas Republican Women.

Every third-grader in Bell County also will receive a dictionary, totaling 4,800 for the county and 3,000 in Killeen.

This was the fifth year for the group to distribute the dictionaries as part of a national program.

Shirley Stephenson, literacy chairman for the Central Texas Republican Women, said the number of students who receive dictionaries grows each year.

Stephenson said the group will continue to hand out dictionaries for the next five years.

She said the dictionaries will help students with spelling, which will boost their self-confidence.

"This is the first dictionary for some students to own," Stephenson said. "It gives them a sense of pride to walk around with the book."

The Republican Women work together on state and local levels to raise money to fund the dictionaries. Donations and garage sales are two of the ways money comes in, Stephenson said.

"A lot of people come to me to donate once they hear about the program in order to promote literacy," Stephenson said.

State Rep. Dianne White Delisi, R-Temple, was a guest at the event.

"Language and learning words are a precursor to being a good reader," Delisi said. "We know this from data on early childhood development."

Delisi said there are big efforts in the state to have every child reading on or above their grade level by the time they reach third grade.

"Dictionaries are the underpinnings of what teachers need to emphasize: language and words," Delisi said.

She said these dictionaries are tried and true because not every word can be found online.

Killeen Independent School District board members and Superintendent Jim Hawkins were present at the event.

Students were told at the ceremony to learn one word from the dictionary each day from now on.

Contact Candace Birkelbach at or call (254) 501-7553

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