The Dictionary Project has been one of the Sun Lakes Rotary Club’s most successful and rewarding projects that students, teachers, and Rotarians look forward to each year. The project was started in 2003, and this year marks the 16th year of distributing dictionaries to all 3rd graders in the Chandler Unified School District. More than 50,000 dictionaries have been distributed since the project began. This year will be the second year that the club has given dictionaries to the St. Bonaventure Mission and the K-8 school located in the Navajo Nation in Thoreau, NM.
The St. Bonaventure School in New Mexico is more than 300 miles away from Sun Lakes and, as you might know, is not part of the Chandler Unified School District. However, the need for books for these children became evident as a result of a Sun Lakes Rotary project being undertaken in the Navajo territory. And the club felt the need to help.
As it happens, Sun Lakes Rotary is also in the midst of a Rotary Foundation Global Water Grant, which provides indoor running tap water for 33 Navajo homes located near the school. The club was provided with a unique opportunity of helping to provide water for these Navajo homes and at the same time giving Navajo students their own dictionaries to use at home and school. Of the 162 total students in the school, 20 are in the 3rd grade.
When most of us think about dictionaries, we think of books that contain words and their definitions. What makes these dictionaries so special is that they contain much more than just words and definitions. There are sections on world geography, civics, multiplication tables, science, the water cycle, planets, states, presidents, and even illustrations for sign language and braille.
As you might expect, these dictionaries often represent the first books these children have ever owned. Think about it. Not all children have access to computers, and these dictionaries provide them with the ability to do home study and group learning sessions. Imagine what happens in class when they are told to refer to find a word, read the definition, use it in a sentence, or sound it out without such a helpful reference tool?
Sun Lakes Rotary, along with the teachers, believes that providing these dictionaries serves to help the students to become better spellers, writers, readers, and thinkers.