MT. PLEASANT — In honor of National Dictionary Day, the Mt. Pleasant Rotary Clubs donated a dictionary to every fourth-grader in Henry County.
Cal Litwiller, president of the Evening Rotary Club, said the clubs handed off 260 dictionaries to the Mt. Pleasant, New London, WACO and Winfield-Mt. Union schools last week. In total, the noon and evening clubs contributed $800 for the donation. The clubs have donated dictionaries to every fourth grade class at local schools for more than 25 years.
Litwiller said Rotary has seven areas of focus, one of which is literacy.
“This dovetails right into that, promoting literacy in our communities,” he said.
The club president added that even though dictionaries may seem outdated in an era of smartphones and computers, when asked, local teachers were “overwhelmingly” in support of continuing the donations.
“It’s interesting because older brothers and sisters will say, ‘I still have mine and I still use it,’” Litwiller said.
He added the dictionary students receive include a list of all the countries in the world as well as a sign language guide.
“There are resources beyond the typical dictionary stuff,” he said.
In years past, Litwiller said members of the clubs would visit fourth-grade classrooms to pass out the dictionaries and go through several activities with students. Due to the pandemic and restricted visitor policies, members were not able to join in on the exercises but teachers and students still looked forward to the dictionaries.
Lori LaFrenz, principal of Lincoln Elementary School in Mt. Pleasant, said she’s always surprised by how excited students become to get the dictionaries.
“It’s kind of a novel thing for them,” LaFrenz said.
The principal added that the continued support from local organizations like Rotary, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic has been “fantastic.”
“The organizations in Mt. Pleasant are very supportive of students, almost every group has done something since we’ve had all these COVID-19 issues,” she said.
Van Allen fourth-grade teachers Amanda Schinstock and Joni Manning both said students were excited about the dictionaries.
“Many of our students don’t have dictionaries of their own, so they were very excited to receive a dictionary,” Manning said.
The teachers added that while students know how to use technology to find the meaning or spelling of a word, dictionary skills are “still a worthwhile skill” and students are always interested to see the “extra” information available in dictionaries.
Manning and Schinstock added they both have students use the dictionaries to look up unfamiliar words when reading text in class.
In addition to learning how to use a dictionary, the teachers said the donations are a starting point for conversations about goodwill and being a positive force in their community.
“Our class has discussed how it feels to help others, and how it feels to be on the receiving end of someone else’s good deed. We use this discussion as an opportunity to encourage our students to ‘Be the Good’ in the world … and challenge them to find ways to help others,” Manning said.