“A dictionary is perhaps the first and most powerful reference tool that a child should own. Its usefulness goes beyond the spellings, pronunciations and definitions it lists. It is also a companion for solving problems that arise as a child develops his or her reading, writing, and creative thinking abilities. Students benefit from an increased self-reliance and resourcefulness inspired by the maxim, “look it up.” The importance of using a dictionary to make sure all words are spelled correctly is emphasized. This is an opportunity for children to expand their vocabulary.”

These words are the foundation of the Dictionary Project, a national program whose goal is to assist all students to complete the school year as good writers, active readers and creative thinkers by providing the students with their own personal dictionaries. The dictionaries are a gift to each student to use at school and at home for years to come.

Thanks to the Peninsula Rotary club, fourth grade students throughout Ocean Beach and Naselle School Districts received personal dictionaries from the club.  In odd-numbered years, students at Tholon-Nipts Alternative School each receive a thesaurus.

Rotarian Keith Schwartz, chair of the dictionary project committee, noted “This particular club project is so rewarding, especially in the classrooms when you see the children getting the dictionaries,” he says. “They have so much fun discovering the books and the wealth of information within.”

The dictionaries are child-friendly, with more than 32,000 entries, parts of speech, punctuation and pronunciation and dictionary guides. They also include a reference section containing information about the solar system, international flags, U.S. presidents, civics sign language, Braille and more. Many students use their dictionaries past the fourth grade.

“We actually go into the classrooms, hand out each dictionary, with a bookplate for the child’s name in it, along with the Rotary 4-Way Test” explains David George, who has been involved in the project since the club began working with the Seaside, Oregon Rotary Club’s project in 2002. “It is a way to introduce Rotary and one of our key projects: literacy.”

The 4-Way Test is a Rotary cornerstone: “Of all the things we think, say and do, First, is it the truth? Is it Fair to all concerned? Will it build goodwill and better friendships? Will it be beneficial to all concerned?”

Carol Lynn Ockfen, retired educator and President of the Peninsula Rotary Club says she considers the dictionaries an important part of efforts to promote literacy in the community. “It’s just a wonderful project,” says Ockfen. “The teachers love it. The kids love it. Literacy to me is the key to the future.”