Members of the 51-year-old Rotary Club of Potomac are gearing up for their fall community service project. In just a few weeks they will deliver approximately 800 free dictionaries to third-graders in nine elementary schools in Montgomery County, as part of the club’s mission to help increase global literacy.
According to Don Harrison, club chair of the Dictionary Project for the past three years, members will not only deliver the dictionaries, but will meet with students to discuss the importance of dictionaries in improving their communication skills.
“It is more than just a dictionary as it contains a copy of the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, information on each president, each state and countries around the world,” Harrison said. “It also includes other information like the longest word in the English language.”
During the years Harrison has been in charge of the project, the club has distributed 2,400 dictionaries to school children around the county, and that number does not include dictionaries given out by other local Rotary Clubs.
Cold Spring Elementary School third graders have been recipients of dictionaries from the Potomac Rotary Club for the past several years, according to Debbie Plakas, an administrative secretary at the school.
"The Rotary Club members do a presentation for the students then give the books out," she said. "The teachers welcome it. Anything that is going to promote reading and literacy is a good thing."
Matthew Brock, club president, noted that improving global literacy is one of the national Rotary Club’s goals and members of the Potomac chapter want to do their part by making sure area third graders have a dictionary of their own.
“In some instances it is the first book the student has owned and it has become, for some, a rite of passage,” he said.
The dictionary project’s goal is to help all students become good writers, active readers and creative thinkers by providing them with their own personal dictionary. According to the project’s website, educators see third grade as "the dividing line between learning to read and reading to learn."
This year the club will distribute dictionaries to the following elementary schools: Cold Spring, Stone Mill, Dufief, Fallsmead, Lakewood, Galway, Travilah, Dr. Sally K. Ride and Lake Seneca.
Potomac Rotary Club members spend between 12 and 15 hours each year on the project, and more than 16 million children have received books since the national project began in 1995.