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Rotarians for reading

Posted on Thursday, September 21, 2017 at 1:07 pm

Manchester Rotary club continues tradition of dictionaries in schools

By Leila Beem Núñez, Editor

Fostering basic education and literacy is one of Rotary’s areas of focus and the goal for the month of September, and last week the Manchester Rotary Club continued its dictionary tradition for the 14th year in a row to fulfill that mission.

To celebrate the month, local Rotary members gathered and made their way from school to school to hand out dictionaries to all third-graders in Manchester City Schools, Coffee County Schools and in homeschool programs.

“It’s a lot of fun to watch the kids and the way they smile; they’re just so excited,” said Vernon Sherrill, just after helping to hand out dictionaries with fellow Rotarians last Friday at Hillsboro Elementary School. “I heard a student say, ‘We don’t have to go to the library anymore to use the dictionaries,’ and that’s just great.”

For the third-graders who receive dictionaries, Rotarians hope they will be tools for years to come. The students all get to keep the dictionaries when they move on next year to fourth grade.

“Everybody gets a dictionary, and they get to keep it. It’s their own personal dictionary,” said Rotarian Taylor Rayfield, who is also Family Resource Coordinator for Coffee County Schools. “We’re very proud as a club to be able to continue to provide this.”

Jerry Bartlett was the Rotarian who spearheaded the club’s local effort to promote literacy through dictionaries. Bartlett said he had heard of other Rotary clubs doing it and thought it would be an excellent project to have in Manchester.

“We decided it was something good for us to do. Third grade is when they start using dictionaries,” Bartlett said. “It’s probably the first year they can really start to understand it, and this year [teachers] will start teaching out of the dictionaries.”

The Webster’s dictionaries the Rotary Club hand out include 37,000 kid-friendly definitions for students aged 8-11, but that’s not all: the special encyclopedic editions local third-graders receive also contain special sections for homework help like world maps, information on the branches of government, events in American history, weights and measures and more.

Third-graders at Hillsboro Elementary School show off their new dictionaries, provid-ed by Manchester Rotary Club. Rotary Club members distributed the dictionaries to all county, city and homeschooled third-graders last week. (Staff photo by Leila Beem Núñez)

“These dictionaries are obviously such a helpful tool, especially from the education standpoint,” Rayfield said. “Our focus is literacy, and this definitely falls right in line with that. This is just a great opportunity.”

Rayfield added that in this day and age of technology, it is beneficial for students to get back to basics.

“It’s good to be able to teach the kids that dictionaries are still relevant and they’re important to be able to refer back to and use,” he said.

Bartlett said this project is a satisfying one that he hopes Manchester Rotary Club can continue to do for years to come.

“I gives you a warm, fuzzy feeling to see the kids,” Bartlett said. “It’s just a feel-good thing to do.”