White Mountain Rotary Club presents third-grade students with dictionaries

All third-grade students in Navajo and Apache counties will soon have dictionaries to call their own, according to Rotary Club representative Brenda Thomas.

‘The three Rotary Clubs in northeastern Arizona visited schools in Apache and Navajo Counties recently to distribute dictionaries to every third-grade student,’ Thomas said. ‘Rotarians will visit students in some very rural schools including the one-room school in the Blue River Primitive Area on the New Mexico border and far-flung schools on the Navajo Reservation.’

This is the second year dictionaries are provided by the Rotary Clubs of Silver Creek (Snowflake), Springerville and White Mountain in Show Low and Pinetop-Lakeside. Each student is encouraged to take the dictionary home.

These student dictionaries contain not only words and definitions but also biographies of all U.S. presidents, weights and measures, the Declaration of Independence, multiplication tables, the U.S. Constitution, maps of the continents, information about the 50 states, and facts about the planets in the solar system, Thomas said. In the classrooms, Rotarians presented each student with a dictionary and gave them several assignments such as finding the longest word. The students discovered the longest word in the English language contains 1,909 letters and is the name for an enzyme that has 267 amino acids.

Nationally, more than nine million children have received a dictionary from Rotary Clubs and other organizations who participate in the Dictionary Project, according to www.dictionaryproject.org.

The Dictionary Project began 13 years ago when Mary French, a South Carolina mother of young children, read a letter to the editor in a local newspaper asking for donations of dictionaries for a local school. Distributing dictionaries, she decided, was a chance to do something for the schools. She made arrangements with a book publisher to print the dictionaries at low cost and sell them to Rotary Clubs and other organizations.

The project focuses on third grade because it is the year students begin to work independently, French said. They begin to write, read for pleasure, and think creatively. At this stage, a dictionary becomes the first and most useful reference tool a child can own, she said.

‘Third grade is a target year. Students of this age are at their turning point,’ said Ken Smith a retired university professor now living in Pinetop and a member of the White Mountain Rotary Club.

‘A dictionary is the ideal gift for a young student who is developing language skills. People give kids many things; Rotary Club gives them a book that they can use for many years.’

White Mountain Rotary Club president Jonathan Hanridge said, ‘The main objective of Rotary is service. Rotarians develop community service projects that address many of today’s most critical issues, such as children at risk, clean water, illiteracy and international understanding.

‘Rotary also supports programs for youth, educational opportunities and international exchanges for students, teachers and other professionals and vocational and career development. The Rotary motto is ‘Service Above Self,” Handridge added.

About 1.2 million Rotarians belong to more than 32,000 clubs in 190 countries. Globally, the organization is tackling such issues as eradication of polio by immunizing children in developing countries. About 5,000 Rotarians live in Arizona.