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Rotarians present students with dictionaries

By Staff | Oct 4, 2008

Thousands of students were presented with free dictionaries on Friday morning from local Rotary Clubs. Part of the Rotary’s “Dictionary Project,” 14 local clubs handed out a dictionary to every third grade student in the Lee County School District.

Rotarians have been distributing dictionaries to local schools for the last eight years, explained Bill Barrett, who directed the Dictionary Project along with Steve Hawks.

“Originally, it started with Rotarians in east Fort Myers who worked with one school. We thought what a wonderful program to bring to the school district and impact the lives of every third grader,” said Barrett.

Local members met in April with the belief “that no third grader in Lee County will be overlooked.”

Approximately 10,000 English and bilingual dictionaries were distributed on Friday morning in a program that the school district has named “Read Across Lee County.”

Barrett explained that there was a slight decrease in the amount of dictionaries handed out this year because of lower enrollment in the district, but through the entirety of the program the Rotarians have spent more than $100,000 on dictionaries.

Each of the 14 clubs participated, said Barrett, and divided the total cost that was determined using student head counts.

Copies were also given to second grade teachers, he said, so they could begin exposing students to a dictionary.

“It is a reference point for the third graders, it really starts to come into their curriculum,” said Barrett. “We also gave them to second grade teachers so kids can see what a dictionary is and look up words if they want to.”

Besides listing thousands of words, the dictionaries also include information about the states, a list of all U.S. presidents and math conversion tables.

Rotarian club members personally handed out the dictionaries to students on Friday morning.

Members of the Lee County School Board and Superintendent James Browder also visited local schools during the distribution. In Cape Coral, Board Member Robert Chilmonik visited Trafalgar Elementary and Board Member Steven Teuber visited Cape Coral Elementary.

Joe Donzelli, spokesperson for the school district, said that “administrators and teachers were very grateful for the Rotarians’ generosity and the students couldn’t believe the books were for them to keep.”