Third graders delight in Rotary’s Annual Dictionary Project

Rotarian Bonnie Whiting at CTA Independent Charter School

Rotarian Bonnie Whiting at CTA Independent Charter School

Colette McNally

Fall is the chosen time for local Rotary Clubs to prepare for one of their most enjoyable service projects of the year. Over the past nine years, the Sun Lakes Rotary Club has led the effort in distributing dictionaries to every third grader in the Chandler Unified School District, in addition to other educational institutions in the Chandler area. Besides the many Rotarians physically entering the classrooms and presenting these dictionaries, countless hours are spent raising the funds to purchase the books and preparing for the event.

Studies have shown that third graders are beginning the transition from “learning to read” to “reading to learn” and Rotarians are dedicated to the concept that the ability to read effectively is the foundation on which to build a solid education. The 2014 dictionaries contain over 32,000 words, their meaning and pronunciation. In addition, there are supplementary sections containing information on presidents, states, world maps, civics, numerical tables, etc.

Sun Lakes Rotary this year honors their long-time leader Dwight Grotewold who introduced the club and countless others in Arizona to this truly meaningful engagement with students. It started nine years ago in a small way and now has spread to other clubs in Arizona and beyond. Chuck Deuth, a member of the Sun Lakes Rotary Club, has assumed responsibility for coordinating this effort that includes help from the San Tan, Chandler, and Horizon Rotary Clubs. This year over 3,500 dictionaries were distributed to students in 31 elementary schools. In the last nine years, over 35,000 books have been distributed in the Chandler area alone.

“It’s a pretty big task”, says Deuth. “Over $10,000 is raised for this effort. Once finances are taken care of, we hold sticker parties which consist of Rotarians coming together to prepare the dictionaries by placing in each book a sticker where the proud owner can write his or her name, a book marker and another sticker which stresses the Four Way Test every Rotarian lives by: “Is it the Truth? Is it Fair to All concerned? Will it bring Good Will and Better Friendship? Will it be Beneficial to All concerned?”

After making arrangements with each school principal, Rotarians enter the classrooms and provide a 20-minute exercise for the students that stresses the importance of education and consists in a number of fun exercises involving the dictionaries. For some students, this is the first time they have put their names on a book and the first time they have owned a book. Some express amazement that it is theirs to keep. Deuth adds, “Many of the third graders have older brothers or sisters who received their dictionaries in the past and they really look forward to having one of their own.”

If you are interested in becoming a member of Sun Lakes Rotary, please contact the Membership Chair Charles Loew at 602-721-3680 for further information.