Her eyes got big. Her smile was radiant. Her excitement was infectious. She has just received her first book – not from the library, but from a Rotarian. And it was hers.
“The donation of a dictionary to every third grade student is so incredibly generous and important to each child’s education. Their very own book -doesn’t get much better than that! Thank you Sun Lakes Rotary for making this happen, year after year.” Dr. Camille Casteel, Superintendent, Chandler Unified School District (CUSD).
In 2005, The Rotary Club of Sun Lakes began a project to encourage reading and word understanding with the third-grade students in the Chandler Unified School District.
For the past 10 years, Rotarians have visited every elementary school throughout the CUSD with one goal in mind, to present every third grader with a dictionary of his or her own. Besides the Rotarians physically entering the classrooms and presenting these dictionaries to the students, countless hours are spent raising the funds to purchase the books and more are spent in preparing for the event.
The reception from the Chandler school administration, the school principals and the students has exceeded the Rotary club’s greatest expectations. The students now have in their possessions, gazetteer dictionaries that contain some 30,000 words with their definitions, the Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution with all of its amendments, a synopsis of information on every state in the United States, a biography of all of the 43 presidents of the United States (actually 44, but Grover Cleveland was president twice), maps of the seven continents, information and drawings of the solar system, as well as short write-ups about nearly all of the nations of the world.
Each year, the Sun Lakes Rotary Club offers high school students an opportunity to attend a Rotary Youth Leadership camp; awards college scholarships to two students who qualify academically and who “do things for others while expecting nothing in return;” holds a special program known as CHOICES for every CUSD high school freshman which points out the need for good decision-making in course selection as well as values they should seek to achieve.
Do you know the longest word in the English language? Over 3,900 CUSD third graders do, thanks to the Sun Lakes Rotarians who delivered dictionaries to them this year. The longest word in the English language is pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis, a word that refers to a lung disease contracted from the inhalation of very fine silica particles, specifically from a volcano. The word was deliberately coined to be the longest word in English, and has since been used in a close approximation of its originally intended meaning, lending at least some degree of validity to its claim.
In the 10 years of this program, dictionaries have been presented by the Sun Lakes Rotary Club to over 41,000 third graders.