Rotarians help boost literacy in Newburyport schools

Reading, writing and arithmetic are all important subjects children learn in school, and with the help of the Newburyport Rotary Club last week third-grade students got some help with the reading and writing parts.

`One of the Rotary International`s prime objectives is literacy around the world. People think it`s just a problem in Third World countries, but it`s not. People in the U.S. struggle as well,` said Susan Christ, foundation chairwoman.

On Thursday and Friday, the teachers and third-graders of the Bresnahan Elementary School and the River Valley Charter School were given dictionaries by Rotarians who visited their classrooms.

`We bought a total of 240 dictionaries for the third-graders, each with a label for them to personalize it and put their name on it,` Christ said.

The dictionaries were bought through The Dictionary Project, a nonprofit organization that assists students in completing the school year as good writers, active readers and creative thinkers by providing them with their own personal dictionary.

`Rotary U.S. has been involved in The Dictionary Project for several years,` Christ said. `They can be bought at a reasonable rate, and it`s a Rotary Club in the Midwest that channels the orders. Many clubs in the U.S. participate in The Dictionary Project.`

The organization has provided more than 11 million students with dictionaries so far, and according to their Web site, they chose third-graders to receive them because they see that time as `the dividing line between learning to read and reading to learn.`

Christ said the event was a success, and the Rotarians who presented the dictionaries were split up into teams of two. They enjoyed the time they got to spend with the kids.

`Some Rotarians had the classes look up words like liberty, rotary or independent with their new dictionaries. One third-grade class sang a welcome song to the presenters, and the Rotarians sang a Rotary song back to them, and another sent handwritten thank-you letters to Jane Yandell, who presented by herself,` she said.

The Newburyport Rotary Club takes on many literacy projects every year, as it is one of their main focuses. In March, they will be a part of the Read Across America Program in coordination with the school department, where they will read stories to kindergartners and first- and second-graders, and they will also participate in a Literary Festival in April.

Christ said this is the Rotary Club`s third year working with The Dictionary Project, initiated by the club`s former president Grace Connolly, and the group hopes to make it an annual event because of the great message the organization provides.

`The Dictionary Project promotes and teaches literacy in your own community and gives the kids something they can take home with them, which they can`t often do,` Christ said.