Word by word, Rotary Clubs make a difference with students

Friday was a day of centennials at the FAIR School Downtown. It was the 100th day of school, and on consecutive days, the Minneapolis and St. Paul Rotary Clubs marked their 100th anniversaries. Even Rotary International President John Kenny was present to mark the occasion.

But the four dozen third-graders at the Minneapolis school weren`t very interested in anniversaries. They were more taken with the dictionaries they had received, a gift from the Minneapolis Rotary Club.

Eight-year-old Anaya clapped her hands when she heard she could take the 500-page paperback home with her.

It was the first book she had ever owned, she said.

For the Minneapolis and St. Paul Rotary Clubs, which pass out nearly 8,000 of the books annually, literacy is paramount.

`I believe that literacy is the key to banishing poverty in the world,` Kenny said.

More than a dictionary

The book is much more than a list of definitions. It has 150 pages of maps, biographies and history.

Lydia, 9, immediately flipped open the book to a page with American Sign Language and began signing what she saw on the page.

`I just wanted to try it because I think I might like it,` Lydia said.

A teaching tool

Third-grade teacher Cary Yang said that the students love using the dictionaries and that for some, the gift wasn`t a total surprise.

`They always get so excited,` Yang said. `A lot of them have older brothers and sisters, and they had dictionaries, so they know what`s coming.`

Both Minneapolis and St. Paul Rotary Clubs work through the Dictionary Project. Together they`ve handed out more than 25,000 dictionaries, which they want to be a staple in each child`s household.

`Service above self`

On Feb. 18, 1910, Minneapolis established its Rotary Club, the ninth in the world. The next day, St. Paul`s club became the 10th.

Minneapolis Rotarian Quinn Tierney said the club`s motto `service above self,` originated from the Minneapolis chapter.