Noah Webster's Compendious Dictionary of the English Language was the first dictionary to feature distinct American spellings, pronunciations and definitions. By the time of its 250th birthday, on Oct. 16, every third-grader in the city of Juneau should have a copy of a dictionary - thanks to the combined efforts of Juneau's three Rotary Clubs (Juneau, Glacier Valley and Gastineau clubs) and Rotary International's worldwide focus on literacy.
Knowing that reading is one of the most important, if not the most important skill a child will acquire, and acknowledging that educators consider third grade as the "dividing line" between learning to read and reading to learn, the three clubs joined forces to provide every third-grade student in Juneau, as well as in a number of outlying communities, with their own personal dictionary, as part of a statewide Rotary distribution effort through The Dictionary Project, a national nonprofit organization.
The Dictionary Project is dedicated to providing students throughout the nation with a dictionary as a means of helping them become good writers, active readers and creative thinkers. This year, for the first year ever, all of Alaska's third graders will receive a dictionary for use at school - and at home - for years to come. The combined effort, from the national organization headquartered in South Carolina, which is underwriting the cost of the Alaska-distributed books this first year, to Span-Alaska, which shipped the books to the state gratis, to the efforts of the South Anchorage Rotary Club (which is coordinating the Alaska program), to the local efforts of Juneau's three Rotary Clubs, will enable the program to officially kickoff this month in Alaska's capital.
A number of years ago, Ketchikan's Rotary Club began distributing dictionaries in the Ketchikan area as part of The Dictionary Project, followed by the Anchorage South Club, which provided them in the Anchorage area. Walt Murphy, current president of the Anchorage club, said his club is not only coordinating the statewide distribution effort, but also placed bookplates in each dictionary with a student version of the Rotary Four-Way Test (Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned? Will it build goodwill and better friendships? Will it be beneficial to all concerned?)
Dictionary distribution to every third-grader in the borough, including those in private schools and homeschools, will begin next week. The three clubs also hope to distribute the books to Skagway, Haines, Klukwan, Gustavus, Hoonah, Angoon, Kake, Pelican, Tennakee Springs and Yakatat later in the school year.
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