The Rotary Club of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, with the financial support of the Philadelphia Rotary Foundation, has recently completed its fifth consecutive book distribution project of more than 2,000 “gift books” for students at four different schools in October of 2012. During the past five years, more than 12,000 dictionaries, thesauruses, atlases and library books have been given by Philadelphia Rotarians to school children at more than 20 inner city schools. These annual initiatives have become a “signature project” for our club…our Dictionary Project outreach into our city.
From an educational point of view, the importance of dictionary and thesaurus usage is a given. 46 of our 50 states specifically mandate dictionary/thesaurus skills as required elementary level language arts standards.
In the wealthy suburban schools and at many private schools, these language arts skills may in fact be acquired through student use of computers or even through personal enrichment experiences. However, this is not likely to occur in the poverty areas of Philadelphia.
Tragically, children from inner city schools who often have the greatest academic needs often receive the least educationally when compared to their suburban neighbors. Many inner city schools are lacking educational materials, provide only limited in-school access to computers, and school libraries for students have often been closed.
Our Philadelphia Rotary distributions of dictionaries, thesauruses, atlases and library books will continue to be in Philadelphia neighborhoods where most of the families are low income, i.e., near or below the poverty line. Educational resources and supplies are usually in short supply in these inner city schools and in students’ homes as well.
And our club members add the “personal touch” by going on site to encourage and say to children that we care about them. “Gift books” are given to individual students not the school so that these youngsters can continue to use this book throughout their school careers.
Educational improvement does not occur in massive tidal waves; it does happen incrementally in small pieces … one child at a time.
By Joseph Batory, Rotary Club of Philadelphia, PA