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Rotary getting the words out

Five county clubs distributing dictionaries to third-graders

Five county clubs distributing dictionaries to third-graders

September 13, 2005|by TIFFANY ARNOLD

tiffanya@herald-mail.com

By the end of the week, every third-grade student in Washington County will take home a dictionary.

The five Rotary clubs in Washington County will distribute more than 2,000 dictionaries in all of the county's public elementary schools and most of its private schools, said John League, Hagerstown Rotary president and publisher of The Herald-Mail Co.

The dictionary deliveries are part of a weeklong literacy initiative the clubs kicked off Monday at Bester Elementary School. The clubs are working under Rotary's push to provide every third-grade student in its district with a word book, said District Governor Jack E. Murray.

Rotary expects to distribute 22,000 dictionaries throughout parts of West Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania, Murray said.

Katie Ricker, 7, a third-grader at Bester, said she was excited when she found out she was getting her own dictionary.

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"Sometimes, when I don't know how to spell words, I need to look it up in the dictionary," she said.

Bester Principal Kathy Stiles said she was glad Rotary decided to give her students books. Often, students come in with incomplete assignments because they were unable to find a word, Stiles said.

"I truly believe it takes a community to raise a child," Stiles said.

The word books also could help students meet academic standards measured by state tests, Stiles said. Students begin taking state tests once they reach third grade.

While Bester met all of the state's benchmarks in 2005, it failed to meet all of them in 2004 and was placed on academic watch.

Federal law requires schools to make progress toward 100 percent proficiency in reading and math under the state's accountability system. Schools that don't make adequate yearly progress are placed on academic watch and could lose federal money.

Students are considered independent thinkers once they reach third grade, said Jill Burkhart, superintendent of elementary reading, social studies and early childhood.

Burkhart said giving the students dictionaries will enhance their development as readers.

"We looked at the children's needs," she said. "What better gift could you give than a book?"

Hagerstown Community College provided bookmarks for each of the dictionaries. HCC President Guy Altieri said it was important for colleges to support reading early and said the third-graders represented the "Class of 2015."

"Regardless of the level of education, people who read more learn more," Altieri said.

The five local Rotary clubs are Hagerstown, Hancock, Williamsport, Longmeadow and Sunrise.

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