Club Gives Gift Of Words

ST. MARYS — For more than 10 years, third-grade students in the St. Marys area have been receiving a new book that is theirs to keep forever.

St. Marys Rotary Club President Robbie Burke and Rotary Dictionary Chair Jim Harris visited local third-grade students for their annual “Rotary Dictionary Day” on Thursday.

“I’m an engineer, and I have to look up a lot of things,” Harris told the students. “I can look up a lot of things on the Internet, but what I’ve found is sometimes it’s easier and quicker to look up things in a book. So, next to my computer is my dictionary.”

He told them they were going to receive their own dictionary.

“We want you to have a good start, so we at the St. Marys Rotary Club want to give you your own dictionary,” he said.

Harris encouraged the students to put their names in their dictionary when they receive it.

“This is a special dictionary,” he said. “Not only is it a dictionary, but it has information on all the presidents, all the states, all the countries and it has math stuff in it.”

Harris noted the dictionary includes both little and big words, including “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.”

“We at St. Marys Rotary Club, we’ve been doing this now for 12 years, and I am still waiting for that really exceptional third-grader to come and tell me how to pronounce the longest word in the English language,” he said. “It is 1,909 letters long. If you really feel you can do it, then tell Mrs. Elson.”

St. Marys Intermediate School Principal Lisa Elson encouraged the students to take care of their new dictionaries.

“Third-graders, let me tell you something about these dictionaries, you need to keep them very nice and neat because I’ll tell you what, there are fifth-graders that still use them,” Elson told her students.

“I see them in their backpacks, and when they go to the middle school, I bet they still use them also. And you can use them all the way into high school so keep them nice and neat.”

Harris told The Evening Leader he started Rotary Dictionary Day after his year as president of the St. Marys Rotary Club.

“I was just coming off my year as president of the Rotary Club and I got a letter from Mary French, who is the director of the dictionary project, asking if we would want to be involved,” he said. “And I went to the board, and I then went to the current president and they said, ‘We’ve got to do this.’ So we ordered the books and we’ve been doing this for 12 years.”

Harris said the students who receive the dictionaries have always been third-grade students.

“The educators who really study this say third grade is the year for the students to get the dictionaries because that is the year they are starting to independently look things up,” he said. “As they learn how to look things up, they’re learning how to learn.”

Harris noted they usually deliver the dictionaries the first week of school and the Rotary received calls from teachers asking about Dictionary Day.

“We had a printer issue,” Harris said, noting the books weren’t delivered until last week. “We were getting calls from teachers, that really thrilled me.”

Before visiting St. Marys Intermediate School, Harris and Burke visited the third-grade classes at Holy Rosary School and at Grand Lake Christian School to deliver dictionaries to those students.