Rotary Helps Tualatin Students Define Success & Service

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Rotarian Dr. Julie Spaniel practices sign language with a Tualatin Elementary student.
Rotarian Dr. Julie Spaniel practices sign language with a Tualatin Elementary student. Submitted Photo

Serve: (verb) 1. To do work for other people, to give assistance or help. 2. To offer food to someone. 3. To answer a purpose. 

Rotary members are dedicated to Service Above Self and are called to serve in many ways, helping both in our local community and across the world. One of the ways we work to strengthen our community is through supporting childhood literacy and education. 

Each fall, the Rotary Club of Tualatin sponsors a special project: Giving dictionaries to all of the 3rd grade students in Tualatin schools. The dictionaries are for the students to keep, to use at school and at home. 

For the first time since 2019, Rotarians were able to visit the classrooms in person to gift a dictionary to each student. While print dictionaries might seem like a relic of the past, they are still a big hit in the classrooms we visited. With each class, when we began to give out the dictionaries, there was excitement in the air. 

Students at Tualatin Elementary explore their new dictionaries.
Students at Tualatin Elementary explore their new dictionaries. Submitted Photo

“I get to keep this? Wow! Thank you!” exclaimed one student.  

In addition to helping students know how to pronounce, spell, and define words, the dictionaries given out include supplemental information such as the U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence, brief biographies of the U.S. presidents, and information about all 50 states, countries of the world, and planets in our solar system. 

Many of the students were drawn to the sign language alphabet that is also included in the dictionary and could be seen practicing spelling their names and other words to their fellow classmates. The students were also amazed to see the longest word in the English language, which contains 1,909 letters and takes up a whole page! 

Students whose families speak Spanish at home are also given a bilingual Spanish-English dictionary, as well as all of the students in Bridgeport Elementary’s two-way immersion classes. 

After we give out the dictionaries, we ask the students to look up the word “serve” and share with them some of the ways that the Rotary Club of Tualatin serves. We hope to inspire these students not only to academic success but also to give help and assistance to others.  

The Dictionary Project was started in 1992 in South Carolina with the goal of helping students become good writers, active readers, creative thinkers, and resourceful learners and has since been adopted by nonprofit organizations through the nation. The dictionaries are distributed to 3rd graders because that is the pivotal year when students transition from learning to read to reading to learn.

You can learn more about Tualatin Rotary’s service projects, including how you can get involved, by visiting www.tualatinrotary.org.