Children need their own dictionaries to be able to develop their writing and reading skills and become resourceful learners. Paperback dictionaries can give all children access to information they need to be successful in school.

This is the premise on which the The Dictionary Project, a non-profit organization promoting literacy with the vision of assisting all students to become good writers, active readers and creative thinkers by providing students a gift of their own personal dictionary, was founded. []

Thanks to the Peninsula Rotary club, who has participated in The Dictionary Project for more than a decade, fourth grade students throughout Ocean Beach and Naselle School Districts received personal dictionaries. The books are a gift to each student to use at school and at home for years to come.  For the second year, the Long Beach Elks Club joined with Rotary to sponsor and present dictionaries to fourth graders in Naselle.

Dictionary Project
Rotarian Don Parsons talks with students in Mrs. Knutzen’s
Ocean Park Elementary class about using their new dictionaries.

“With the Elks joining us, we send a message about cooperation and the important role of service clubs in our community.  We go into the classrooms to hand out each dictionary, with a bookplate for the child’s name in it, along with the Rotary 4-Way Test” explains Keith Schwartz, who has headed up the Peninsula Rotary Club project for several years. “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?”

Rotarian Don Parsons, on the team for handing out dictionaries this year, noted “This particular project is so rewarding, especially when you see the children getting the dictionaries,” he says. “They have so much fun discovering the books and the wealth of information within.”

A local student writes,

Thank you for the dictionary, Mr Rotary. I never had a book of my own before and neither did my dad so I share it with him.

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 well past the fourth grade.

In this day of online dictionaries and smartphone apps, is a paperback dictionary still a necessity? For the people who ask the question, the answer may be “no.” Some of us are fortunate to have electronics that give us access to the internet almost everywhere. For children who are still learning to read, however, constant access to the internet is not usually a reality.

In response, Schwartz points to a thank-you letter the project received from a student:

Thank you for the dictionary. I love it! It’s cool. I can use it wherever I want at home. It doesn’t slow me down like a computer. Now, I can use it for homework. I can use it at school and not dissrupt the class. I can use it for writing and spelling. Thank you!

Schwartz says he considers the dictionaries an important part of efforts to promote literacy in the community. “It’s one of my favorite projects,” he divulged. “It’s a very inexpensive way to make a significant impact on the youth of our community.”

SW Pacific County Peninsula Rotary meets Tuesdays, 7:30 am and 5:15 pm at the Lightship Restaurant in Long Beach.  Check for more information.

Ed Note: Rotary is a global humanitarian organization with more than 1.2 million members in 34,000 Rotary clubs in over 200 countries and geographical areas. Rotary members are men and women who are business, professional and community leaders with a shared commitment to make the world a better place through humanitarian service.
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Each October, our club purchases and personalizes dictionaries for every 4th grade student in Ocean Beach School District. Students are given a brief introduction to Rotary when they are presented with their dictionaries. Contact Keith Schwartz for more information.

Project Outline [rtf] [doc]   |   Bookplates [pdf]: Dictionary Thesaurus


Student Dictionary Project