To learn to read, children need to build and improve their vocabulary. What better way to help them learn than to give them a dictionary.
As they have for more than a decade, last fall, Rotary Club of the North Fork members personally delivered dictionaries to local third grade students through the Rotary Dictionary Project. Last December, Rotarians delivered about 100 hardbound Scholastic Children's Dictionaries to third-grade students at Hotchkiss and Paonia elementary schools and North Fork Montessori at Crawford.
In addition to words and their definitions, the dictionaries include colorful images, a thesaurus, guides to punctuation and idioms, and are updated to include new words and technology terms.
Receiving a dictionary of their own is very exciting, said Rotarian Susie Coombe. "Parents say they find them reading their dictionaries at night with a flashlight."
For some students, it's the first book they can call their own. "It's so much fun to watch those kids get so excited about their first book," said North Fork Rotary president Barb Heck.
The Rotary Dictionary Project was established in the early 2000s through a matching grant project led by the Lamar, Colo., Rotary. Since then, more than 17 million dictionaries have been distributed to elementary-aged students across the country.
While visiting schools, local Rotarians share information on Rotary, its global efforts to reduce the polio disease, local scholarship programs and other services it provides.
North Fork Rotary budgets $1,080 per year for the program, said Heck. While they ask for nothing in return, they often receive thank-you letters. In January, the club received an envelope full of letters from third graders at Paonia Elementary School.
Among their many and varied comments:
"Thank you for coming and teaching us how to use a dictionary." Gunnar and Kameron.
"I will use it forever." Klara.
"I like the super cool stuff in the dictionary." Lugha and Adrian.
"We are going to look up things and learn more about the world." Cole and Coy.
"I like to use the dictionary because I want to be a scientist when I grow up." Jace.
"At Christmas I will teach my little brother Kenny about my dictionary." Renee.
"We will learn a lot with our dictionaries." Laylah.
"What does Rotary mean?" Elly.
"We are going to need them until we are 61. We are going to need them for maps and flags. Also, we will use them for researching presidents. We are going to need them for learning about rocks." Perla.
"I love the help you not only give to Paonia, but the world!" Elly.
"We are going to use them for hard words and get smarter." Emberlee and Bella.
"We will use them for college and forever." Addison, Ben and Ashley.
Rotary welcomes donations for the dictionary program by mail at Rotary Club of the North Fork, P.O. Box 1543, Paonia, CO 81428.
Rotary also meets the first four Thursdays of the month in the Community Room at Paonia Town Hall, 214 Grand Avenue. Lunch is served at noon, and each week, a different guest speaker gives a presentation.