Third graders learn to use tried and true reference–the dictionary

The Sharpsburg-Aspinwall Rotary Club is showing third graders that the Internet isn’t the only way to look up information.

Club members are providing each of the youngsters with A Student’s Dictionary along with a lesson on how to use it.

As part of Rotary International’s focus on literacy, the local group distributes 400 books each year to third graders in all four Fox Chapel Area elementary schools as well as at Fox Chapel Country Day School and St. Mary’s and St. Scholastica schools.

Rotarians Bill Crooks, Sonny Galanty and Dom Perrotte, all of O’Hara, and Elissa Lang of Indiana Township visited Jessica Resek’s class at O’Hara Elementary just before Thanksgiving to present each child with a dictionary. Mr. Crooks showed the students where to sign their names inside the front cover and how to look up words, starting with the word fox.

The children excitedly raised their hands in the air when they were asked what were the shortest words in the book — a and I. But when he told them to turn to the last page to see the longest — a 1,909-letter term for the formula for an enzyme — the class let out a collective "Whoa!"

"Can you pronounce it?" he asked.

"I’ll bet my sister can!" one student responded.

Mr. Crooks showed the class that the dictionary contains more than words and their meanings. The gazetteer section has information about the world, history and more.

Crooks showed the children the entry on Roman numerals. When asked what these numerals were used for today, John was ready with the answer: "The Super Bowl!"

Mr. Crooks also showed the children a table of weights and measures, the periodic table of elements and the words to the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. The dictionary also contains lists of the U.S. presidents, the state birds and the planets.

The students also got a chance to look up information on their own and ask their own questions. Mr. Crooks finished by showing them the sign language symbols in the book. All the third graders could sign "I love you."

The students get to keep the books, each of which contains a sticker of the local Rotary Club’s logo and the Rotary’s "4-Way Test," which asks whether what they’re about to think, say or do is truthful, fair, promotes good will and is beneficial.

"We want the kids and their parents to know what the Rotary is," Mr. Galanty explained.

This is the fourth year the Sharpsburg-Aspinwall group has distributed dictionaries to local third graders.

The group also holds regular bingos at the Veterans Affairs Hospital in Aspinwall, delivers Meals on Wheels to local seniors, packs and sends medical supplies worldwide, provides free immunizations to needy children and helps local families at Thanksgiving and Christmas.

John Arch of O’Hara, project coordinator for the local Rotary Club, said club members enjoy presenting the dictionaries to the children and receiving the thank-you notes from them.

"The artwork the kids put on the notes is really interesting." he added.