Since 2006 First City Rotary has partnered with The Dictionary Project to give a dictionary to every third-grader in the Ketchikan Gateway Borough. The Dictionary Project is a non-profit based in Charleston, South Carolina, with a mission to help students become “good writers, active readers, creative thinkers, and resourceful learners by providing them with their own personal dictionary.” Many Rotary Clubs throughout the country participate in this program, including my former club in Middletown, Connecticut.
Here in Ketchikan, Rotarian Al Rockwood has coordinated the program for many years. His enthusiasm and passion for encouraging literacy are infectious. I accompanied Al and other Rotarians last spring to present books to third-graders at Houghtaling and Fawn Mountain schools. It was an amazing experience! The kids knew about the program and were excited to receive their own dictionary. We passed them out, explained briefly how they work, and asked the students to look up a few words. The dictionary has sections in the back with maps, a list of U.S. Presidents, the Constitution, and other interesting information; we showed them these. Finally we talked a bit about Rotary and the Club’s work in the community.
This week, dictionaries are being distributed to third-graders who are home-schooled, through the Fast Track and Pace programs. Next week we will begin delivering the dictionaries to local third grade classes. Many thanks to the teachers, school administrators and others who assist us with this project!
The Rotary Four-Way Test of the things we say and do, is on a book plate in each dictionary:
- Is it the truth?
- Is it fair to all concerned?
- Will it build good will and better friendships?
- Will it be beneficial to all concerned?
This philosophy of respect, good will and community engagement has been at the core of Rotary since it was founded in 1905 in Chicago. Now there are over 34,000 local Clubs world-wide. In addition to local community service projects, Rotary also supports international efforts such as the fight against polio, clean water initiatives and youth exchange projects that promote greater understanding between people in different countries.
By providing students with a tool that will help them as they learn to read, and then use that skill to further their education in all areas of life, The Dictionary Project helps children become literate, informed, engaged citizens.