Oak Park-River Forest Rotary promotes literacy by distributing dictionaries

By the end of this week, the Rotary Club of Oak Park-River Forest expects to have delivered 1,320 dictionaries to area third graders.

Handing out free dictionaries to students is a Rotary Club literacy project, part of the Dictionary Project, a national non-profit organization. Locally the project, coordinated by the Rotary’s Literacy Committee, was launched Oct. 14.

‘It’s a good opportunity to get dictionaries into the hands of children early on,’ said Lesley Gottlinger, project coordinator and board member of the local Rotary Club. ‘We’re only focusing on third graders and this year we’re delivering to 27 schools.’

Gottlinger said this is the second year she’s been involved in the dictionary project, but the fourth year for the Oak Park-River Forest Rotary Club.

Each year the number of dictionaries distributed has increased, she said.

‘The first two years the Rotary distributed about 450 dictionaries each year to Oak Park and River Forest public schools,’ Gottlinger said. ‘In our third year we added private Oak Park and River Forest schools and delivered about 960 dictionaries.’

This year, the club decided to add Forest Park’s public and private schools to the dictionary giveaway, as well as three schools in Chicago’s Austin Neighborhood.

‘(We) will distribute 1,320 dictionaries to Districts 90 in River Forest, 91 in Forest Park and 97 is Oak Park,’ Gottlinger said.

Gottlinger and Rotary Club president Bill Planek distributed the dictionaries.

‘This is my first year actively taking part. This is the first time we’re going into the Austin community and we want to continue to grow the project,’ Planek said. ‘You never know where one act of kindness can lead.’

Gottlinger said children send letters of thanks.

‘Each of the dictionaries belong to the kids, not the school,’ Gottlinger said.