Building better readers; Rotarian service project puts dictionaries in students’ hands

Third-grader Kendyl couldn’t take her eyes off her new dictionary after a group of visiting local Rotarians gifted her with the book Friday.

She joined her classmates and thumbed through the gift, looking for the word “service.”

“It’s really neat having my own dictionary now,” she said while she looked up yet another word. “It’s going to be fun.”

This youngster and all her W.A. Wright classmates, along with nearly 1,700 third graders, were the focus of a county-wide Rotary service project last week. The collaborative effort is called The Dictionary Project with all four Rotary clubs united to present every third-grader in Wilson County with their own dictionary. Friday the Mt. Juliet Rotary clubs took part, and the Lebanon clubs plan to do the same soon.

Representatives from the Mt. Juliet clubs visited classrooms in west Wilson. They dispersed the dictionaries in teams. Not only did students in the county public schools receive the special gift, but third graders who attend the county’s private schools did as well.
It was a banner morning that had students busy looking up a myriad of words that ranged from “commitment” to “rooster.”

This was the eighth an annual initiative by the Rotary to deliver dictionaries to 8 and 9 year olds for use at school and home. It evolved because local Rotarians realized a dictionary was an essential tool to enhance a child’s vocabulary. Mt. Juliet Noon Rotary past president John Sloan headed up the effort. He said the dictionaries may be the only book in the house for some students. He and several other Rotarians were at W.A. Wright. He partnered with fellow Rotarian Jeff Brigstock and delivered dictionaries to students in Ashley Ledbetter’s class. They familiarized the students with the new books.

“Hopefully these will open doors for the children,” he said. “Reading and correct grammar are the keys to success and these will enforce that and give these kids a leg up. It’s something they will use the rest of their lives.”

The goal of The Dictionary Project is to assist third grade students to complete the school year as good writers, active readers and creative thinkers by providing them with the paperback dictionary.

W.A. Wright Principal Jill Giles said the students were extremely excited about the visit from the Rotarians and their new dictionaries.

“Every year they come so every third grader gets their own dictionary,” said Giles. “We’ve begun to count on them. The teachers really appreciate it as well as the students. And, it saves the school money.”

Sloan said the project is a huge success each year.

“I wanted to come up with a project to work on together,” he said. “Our club has a history of working with literacy projects.”

Sloan said each year the teachers and students look forward to the dictionary deliveries.

“They know we are coming,” he said. “Third grade is when dictionary skills are taught. The teachers get a free set of dictionaries and we tell the students the dictionaries are theirs and we encourage them to write in them.”

Sloan noted about 70 Wilson County Rotarians take part in the project every year.

“We get excited about it,” he said. “To promote literacy and spread the word about Rotary.”