BERLIN - Eleven years ago Scott Skates, a member of the Kensington-Berlin Rotary Club and father of two young children, suggested that his Rotary Club, start the Gifts of Words Dictionary Project.
The Gift of Words was a Rotary Initiative that many of the clubs in the area were starting.
“We were encouraged to start this project for third graders in our communities as a way to increase literacy in children,” stated Skates. Research had shown that third grade was a perfect age for kids to receive a dictionary, according to Skates.
Members of the Kensington-Berlin Rotary Club shared his enthusiasm for the project and jumped on the opportunity. Sponsors were obtained from local businesses to cover the cost of the dictionaries.
Then in December 2007, the Rotarians visited all the Berlin third-grade classrooms and the first hard-bound Scholastic dictionaries were given out. Skates’ daughter, Danielle was in the first class that received a dictionary.
Over the years, Rotarians have since visited the classrooms and given out more than 3,000 hardbound Scholastic Dictionaries to all the third graders at public schools Griswold, Hubbard, Willard and private school St. Paul School.
When the Rotarians visit the schools, they talk about the importance of service and giving back to the community. They also mention joining Interact, which is Rotary for high school students. Then they present the dictionaries to the students. Each child is called up to the table where they write their name and date in the dictionary.
Jen Newman, a parent at St. Paul School, has three children who have received their dictionaries from Rotary. She recently thanked Rotary by posting the stack of dictionaries on Facebook.
“As a parent I like the dictionaries because the definitions are understandable and age appropriate in contrast to what kids might find using on the internet,” shared Newman.
“It’s just as exciting for the Rotarians as it is for the students when we come into the classrooms to present the dictionaries,” said Elaine Pavasaris, president of the Kensington-Berlin Rotary Club. “Even though we live in an age of technology, it is important for children to have a book that they can hold onto and treasure, we hope forever.”
Danielle Skates agreed.
Now a graduating senior at Berlin High School who plans to attend Western New England University in the fall, Danielle Skates, is also reflective.
“Not only did the dictionary increase my vocabulary but it influenced my drive to give back,” said Danielle Skates. “I knew I wanted to be a part of all that Rotary offered. Recently I received a scholarship from Western New England University for all the community service I have done.”
“We love doing this project for the kids,” stated Scott Skates. “I’m so proud of my daughter who has learned the importance of helping others and giving back.”
- Kensington-Berlin Rotary Club