“How do you spell the word chrysanthemum?” “Who was the 35th President of the United States?” “Is Georgia the name of a state and a country?” “What is xylography?” These are among the many questions that can be answered with A Student’s Dictionary. The dictionary is a tool that students can use throughout their entire life.
The DictionaryProject.Org website states, “Educators describe third grade as the time when a student transitions from learning to read to reading to learn.” This is the primary reason the Rotary Club chose to give third graders a copy of the dictionary. The Dictionary Project was originally founded in 1992, when Annie Plummer, started a mission to give dictionaries to all the students at a school in Savannah, Georgia. Soon, volunteers such as Bonnie Beeferman and Mary French helped to support the growing demand for dictionaries for growing kids. Mary French and her husband, Arno French created the Dictionary Project as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in 1995. Arno French became president, and Mary French became director of the organization. Over 16 million students over the United States have since received their own dictionary because of the Dictionary Project. Other reference books as well as the dictionary are given to children in “the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, 3 Canadian provinces, and more than 15 other countries around the world,” as stated at DictionaryProject.Org.
Mary French, Director of the Dictionary Project since 1995, has participated in the distribution of dictionaries to all the elementary schools in South Carolina (over 400 schools). “We didn’t deliver them all in one year,” stated French. She indicated that delivering the dictionaries has taken time. This is truly an accomplishment in spreading the inspiration for education and reading. French, with the help of Karan and Siddarth Rai, wrote and published one of the dictionaries presented to third graders.
When asked about a memorable moment during the Dictionary Project, French stated, “Every school is different. There is always something new and unexpected at each one. The children are very appreciative and proud to have a book that belongs to them. I remember one time a boy came up to me and hugged me. He said, ‘This is the best birthday present I have ever had.’ That made my whole week.”
Rotary Clubs are bringing the Dictionary Project to the Hurst-Euless-Bedford ISD. Rotary of Hurst Euless Bedford and Midcities Pacesetters Rotary Club are gifting dictionaries to every third grader in the HEB Independent School District. The idea for the dictionary project in the HEB ISD was brought forth by Rotary member Georgia Kidwell, a retired teacher from Bellaire Elementary School. Jim Dunning (President Pro Tem of the Rotary of Hurst Euless Bedford) and Randy Swaim (from Midcities Pacesetters Rotary) are co-chairmen of the Dictionary Project in HEB ISD.
Jim Dunning, a Rotary member since 1993, began participating in the Rotary Readers program at West Hurst Elementary. The Rotary Readers program promotes Rotary members to volunteer their time to read to elementary students. Dunning was presented with the Friend of Education Award in 2006 for his volunteer efforts at West Hurst Elementary.
Jim Dunning stated, “Many professionals participated in the project. Jo Svochak donated her business location, TruForm Optics, as a meeting place to review the presentation, put stickers in the dictionaries, and then deliver them to the schools.” Business professionals from all over the community are helping. Dr. Gene Buinger, HEB Superintendent, passed out dictionaries at Lakewood Elementary, stated Dunning.
Dunning assisted in presenting 10 schools with dictionaries. At the beginning of the dictionary presentation, Dunning told the kids what the Rotary Club is:
“Rotary is a volunteer organization of 1.2 million businesses and professional leaders united worldwide to provide humanitarian service and help build goodwill and peace. About 32,000 Rotary clubs in more than 200 countries and geographical areas conduct projects to address today’s challenges – including illiteracy, disease, hunger, poverty, lack of clean water, and environmental concerns – while encouraging high ethical standards in all vocations.”
Then Dunning stated, “The Rotary Club is presenting third graders in the HEB school district with a dictionary. This is not an ordinary dictionary. It is a comprehensive dictionary with a list of the Presidents of the United States, the Declaration of Independence, the facts of the planets and solar system, the continents, weights and measures, and sign language.”
Dunning and the Rotary volunteers stated their favorite section of the dictionary. Dunning’s favorite section of the dictionary is the Multiplication Table, on page 367. “I knew if I memorized all the tables, I could use them in high school and college,” stated Dunning.
“I remember the dictionary I received when I was a senior in high school,” said Dale Harwell. “I still have and use it today.”
“One of the most exciting things about this project,” stated Dunning, “I work with a different 6 people for each school presentation. I became acquainted with many people in the group. I learned their favorite parts of the book.” Dunning stated, “Judy Ramos (Coordinator of Communications for HEB) is also a Rotary member. Judy Ramos’ favorite section is the planets, because the planet summary tells us about the planets and their significance to our solar system.”
The students were then presented with a dictionary to keep for their own. “As soon as the kids received their dictionary,” Dunning stated, “they immediately delved into the book, excited, looking into the book and asking questions. So far, 1,752 dictionaries were given to third graders, teachers and assistants in HEB.”
Regina Patterson, Assistant Principal at Donna Park Elementary School stated, “The Rotary talked to the students about the dictionary. The more you know about words, the better off you will be. The Rotary Club members presenting at this school were: Jim Dunning, Dale Harwell, and Chris Lane.”
Randy Swaim, co-chairman of the Dictionary Project at Mid-Cities Pacesetters Rotary Club, is the head chairman of the New Generations Committee. He has a passion for the next generation. Swaim is interested in helping kids with their future. Swaim stated, “today’s teens are more competitive than they used to be. Being good at what you do is not good enough anymore.” Swaim has a passion for helping kids reach their full potential. Swaim’s passion for kids made him a natural selection for co-chairman of the Dictionary Project. Swaim’s team is delivering dictionaries to 9 schools in the HEB ISD.
Swaim noticed the reaction and energy of the kids who received their dictionaries. “Kids often don’t get it (motivation to learn) outside of school.” Motivation is created when students are inspired to ask questions about things around them.
Randy Swaim noticed most kids turning to the sign language page when given the dictionary. One young girl at Shady Brook Elementary stopped him and said, “Do you know what I am going to do? I am going to say ‘Thank you.’ in sign language.” Then she proceeded to look up how to do just that.
When asked about a memorable moment during the presentations, Swaim stated, “I am a part-time pilot and I was a fighter jock in the Airforce. One of the presentations occurred on Veteran’s Day. Jim Dunning asked me to wear my fighter jacket at the dictionary presentation. Jim told the kids about the army fighter pilot picture I have on my phone. Jim said, ‘I bet Randy will show it to you if you ask.’ Sure enough, at the end of the presentation, one young boy asked to see the picture. I showed him and at least 30 fellow students gathered around to see.”
Swaim noticed the teacher’s appreciation as well. “I felt an unspoken appreciation from the teachers. They are not out there alone to help the kids.”
At the end of the Dictionary Project Presentation, Dunning told the kids, “We would like you to do everything your teacher says this year and we would like you to become a Rotarian someday.”