Rotary Clubs give the gift of words

Third-grade students at Cranberry Elementary School gathered for an assembly Friday to receive new dictionaries.

This was the last stop of the week to the six North Port-area elementary schools being visited by representatives of both the North Port Rotary Club and the North Port Central Rotary Club for the annual dictionary giveaway.

The Dictionary Project celebrated Dictionary Day on Sunday.

Coordinated by Vince Giuffry from the Central club, 150 dictionaries were handed out at Cranberry. A total of 749 dictionaries were distributed during the week.

Before the giveaway, a short question-and-answer session with the students was conducted by Giuffry; Maria Kalapati, president of the North Port Central Rotary Club; and Peter VanBuskirk, representing the North Port Rotary Club.

Questions ranged from the number of pages in the dictionary to whether it was a gift.

VanBuskirk explained the inside front page of the dictionary contained a line where each student could write his or name.

Also in the books were the "Four-Way Test" that Rotary members try to live by. They asked the students to try and live by these four questions: Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned? Will it build goodwill and better friendships? Will it be beneficial to all concerned?

"I enjoy seeing the smiles on their faces," Kalapati said. "They are so appreciative. "It’s also a literacy program for the Rotary Clubs to support."

Money to pay for the dictionary giveaway is raised through various benefits that the clubs hold throughout the year.
When the students were asked if they had dictionaries at home or use computers to look up words, the most common response was "no," but a few had their own solutions when they did not know how to spell a word.

"My mom is my dictionary," third grader Hope said. "When I need to spell, a word I ask her. Now I can look for it in my own dictionary."

And that pleased the Rotarians.

"Even if there is a dictionary in the home or a computer, the kids are more excited about the fact that the book is their very own," Giuffry said.

Some day, Giuffry said, he believes the printed dictionary is "going to fade into the sunset, like the wrist watch, but until then we are happy to be able to provide for our students here in North Port."

In 1992, Annie Plummer of Savannah, Ga., gave 50 dictionaries to children at a school close to her home. The gesture gave birth to the idea for The Dictionary Project.

Word quickly spread. In 1995, an association and board was elected to form The Dictionary Project that has since then inspired and helped organizations like the Rotary Clubs in North Port to provide more than 16 million children all over the United States with free dictionaries.