It’s almost like Christmas in October for the Sun Lakes Rotary Club! That’s because October is when some 4,200 dictionaries, to be given to students as gifts free of charge, arrive. Five years ago Rotarian Dwight Grotewold learned about a program titled The Dictionary Project, which is directed by a wonderful lady named Mary French out of Charleston, South Carolina. Initially, she purchased and gave books to students in her community because she recognized that a dictionary can be a very effective tool to assist students to become better readers. It is her belief that a student who becomes a good reader nearly always becomes a successful student in all academic areas.
A proposal was written and submitted to the Sun Lakes Rotary Club of about fifty members to furnish seed money of $2,000 yearly to place the order for personal dictionaries, plus funds were raised from individuals, corporations, and businesses to make up the total of 9,000 needed each year to make a purchase of the 4,200 dictionaries for delivery each October. Dr. Camille Casteel, superintendent of the Chandler Unified Schools, agreed that this was a great program and authorized a yearly stipend of $1,500 to get the program underway. As a result of raising the funds, it has been possible to give all third-grade students in the Chandler public schools their own personal dictionary, as well as dictionaries to all of the third-grade students in the charter schools, the church-related schools, private schools and to the students enrolled in the schools on the Gila reservation. In addition to the Rotary Club in Sun Lakes, the four Rotary Clubs in Chandler have become very involved in this outstanding community service program.
The teachers in the schools have welcomed these personal dictionaries with open arms for many reasons. A primary one is that they can now make assignments to all of their students using this valuable educational tool because each student now has their very own personal dictionary for these learning lessons. This also means that the teachers can make assignments that the students can work on at home. In addition, the dictionary is special in that it also contains a small encyclopedia with the United States Constitution, information on the solar system, a multiplication table, information about every U. S. president, and on and on.
Teachers have said that when they have a free reading period, many students elect to read their dictionary, which can enhance their reading, spelling, and pronunciation skills. Some teachers have even speculated that the exposure to so many additional topics in their small encyclopedia has aided their students in doing improved standardized testing.
Grotewold was asked to spread the word to the two other Rotary Districts in Arizona, where it was also well-received. With the efforts of those Rotarians, and the efforts of other service organizations and individuals, nearly 70,000 dictionaries are given to the state’s third graders yearly. The Sun Lakes Rotary Club members readily volunteer each year to go to the many schools personally to make a special presentation to the students. They nearly always receive letters of thanks from all of those students they meet and give the sought-after books. Since the program began locally five years ago, over 20,000 personal dictionaries have been purchased and distributed to the third graders in October, which makes it seem like Christmas in October for the students and the Rotary Clubs.
Any organization, club or individual who may be interested in learning more about this important program, or perhaps even becoming a contributor, is urged to contact Rotarian Dwight Grotewold at 10502 East Navajo Place in Sun Lakes, Arizona 85248, or send an email inquiry to him at firstname.lastname@example.org. This has proven to be one of the most outstanding community service projects the Rotary Clubs have ever become involved with. It is wonderful to see the great reception given to them by the students, teachers, and school administrators who welcome this fine educational tool as a gift in October to the students and the schools.
Dear Rotary Club,
Thank you for the dictionary you gave me at my school recently. I keep it by my bedside each night when I read. When I find a word I don’t recognize I look it up so I can spell it, know what it means and say it the right way. My friends wonder how I can be so smart and answer so many questions in class. I don’t tell them I use my dictionary every night…they think I’m really smart.
Dear Mr. Grotewold,
I love my new dictionary. I use it every day. It helps me with my language work. I also read it at Z.Y.L.A.R. That means zip your lips and read. I hope to see you soon.