Each year, Fargo-Moorhead Rotarians hand deliver dictionaries to nearly 2,500 third grade students in seven local school districts in Cass (North Dakota) and Clay (Minnesota) Counties. Started many years ago by the Moorhead Rotary Club, all area Rotary Clubs are now involved in visiting third grade classrooms to talk about Rotary and promote literacy and learning. The Fargo West Club leads the effort by contacting school principals and coordinating visits with teachers, getting accurate headcounts, ordering books and mobilizing volunteers. Each club contributes financially to the project and provides volunteers to distribute the books in the classrooms. In the age of online dictionaries, it’s still amazing to see the joy on a child’s face when opening a dictionary and writing their own name inside!
A Humble Beginning
The Dictionary Project was originally the idea of Annie Plummer of Savannah, GA. In 1992, she gave away 50 dictionaries to local school children. Eventually, she raised funds to give 17,000 children in Savannah a dictionary! Bonnie Beeferman in Hilton Head, SC, read about Ms. Plummer’s project and started her own dictionary giveaway in her community. She was so overwhelmed by requests from teachers, that she reached out for help. Mary French and her husband Arno from Charleston answered her request by starting the Dictionary Project, a 501(c)3, in 1995. To date, 28 million children have now received dictionaries! Civic clubs, businesses, individuals and parent groups have sponsored projects in all 50 states and a growing number of international locations.
The goal of this program is to assist all students in becoming good writers, active readers, creative thinkers, and resourceful learners by providing them with their own personal dictionary. The dictionaries are a gift to each student to use at school and at home for years to come. Educators see third grade as the dividing line between learning to read and reading to learn, so we encourage our sponsors to give dictionaries each year to children in the third grade. -The Dictionary Project