Rotary Club distributes dictionaries to area third graders

When Litchfield Rotary Club member Mike Solbrack visited the third-grade classroom at School of St. Philip this November, he instructed the children to look up the word “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” in their dictionaries.

“That’s in there,” Solbrack joked. “It’s what you say when you don’t know what to say.”

Solbrack visited School of St. Philip to distribute dictionaries to the students on behalf of the Litchfield Rotary Club, who is donating 265 dictionaries to area third graders. Rotarians handed out books at Lake Ripley Elementary, Eden Valley Elementary, ACGC Elementary, Riverview Christian School in Grove City and the local ESL program.

This is the third year Litchfield Rotarians have given dictionaries to local students. In 2010, they handed out dictionaries at the two Litchfield elementary schools, and have since expanded.

“It went so well that we decided to expand our program into all of Meeker County,” Solbrack said.

The Litchfield Rotary is able to buy dictionaries with money raised through several fundraisers throughout the year. They then purchase dictionaries for $1.75 from The Dictionary Project organization, a nonprofit effort that has distributed more than 18 million dictionaries to school children throughout the United States since it was founded in 1995.

The project started with a Georgia woman who gave 50 dictionaries to children attending school close to her home. In 1995, a South Carolina woman picked up the effort and launched The Dictionary Project organization. The project has since been adopted by service organizations like the Rotary Club.

The project focuses on third graders because that is the age children begin to work independently on reading and writing, and a dictionary is a useful reference tool for those skills, according to the Dictionary Project website.

The dictionary also includes several pages of maps, as well as information about U.S. history, weights and measures, sign language, planets and other countries.

“I really, really enjoy it. The kids are so positive and energetic,” Solbrack said. “I’ve heard from some of the teachers that some of the kids read it cover to cover.”

Solbrack said many students have older siblings who have dictionaries from the first two years the Litchfield Rotary Club handed out dictionaries, and those students are excited to get their own dictionary.

“That’s kind of what it’s all about — giving back to the community,” Solbrack said.