As elementary school students mature and develop reading skills, they are likely to be advised to “just look it up” when they ask about the meaning of a word or its spelling.
Such direction is a challenge for those without ready access to a dictionary or a computer. Every year since 2008, the Rotary Club of Beckley has purchased full-size Webster’s Dictionaries for every third-grader in Raleigh County public and private schools.
These students are given their own personal dictionary that they can keep and take with them to use throughout their school career. A dictionary is one of the first and most powerful reference tools a child can own. Its usefulness goes beyond the spellings, pronunciations and definitions that it contains. It is a convenient companion for solving problems that arise as students develop their reading, writing and creative thinking abilities.
A dictionary fosters increased self-reliance and resourcefulness. Teachers benefit as they know that their students have access to a tool for both homework and class assignments. Lessons can be designed around use of a dictionary, and it can build students’ vocabularies.
This year, 984 dictionaries were delivered to third-grade classrooms in 21 schools. Rotarian Dan Thacker chaired the project and Larry Ford, member of the Raleigh County School Board, assisted with the deliveries. Larry’s wife, Pamela S. Ford, had been in charge of the Beckley Rotary Club Dictionary Project for many years.
Many of the third-grad-ers have sent thank you letters to the Beckley Rotary Club. One noted that the dictionaries not only help them spell words and increase their vocabulary, but it was also neat to “look up words for fun.”
Another student commented, “I am sure it will come in handy in a writing assessment. I am looking forward to using it. I wish I could use it in writing this letter. I can’t wait to use the dictionary and so on and so on.”
The dictionaries were purchased with income from the Beckley Rotary Club Charitable Fund at the Beckley Area Foundation. The Rotary Club established BAF’s first named designated fund shortly after the Foundation was formed in 1985.
Using this fund, over $55,000 has been distributed by Beckley Rotarians for dozens of projects. Recipients have included the YMCA Paul Cline Memorial Youth Sports Complex, Raleigh County Commission on Aging, a Wheelchair Project in the Philippines, West Virginia Boys’ and Girls’ State, Eradication of Polio (Polio Plus), water projects and improvements at Beckley’s Freedom Park.
Rotarians all over the United States participate in The Dictionary Project. Additional information can be obtained at the website www.dictionaryproject.org.