Del Mar Solana Beach Rotary club and the USA Dictionary Project

By Laura Wildeman

Newsletter editor, Del Mar Solana Beach Sunrise Rotary Club

The Del Mar Solana Beach Sunrise Rotary Club delivered over 1,300 dictionaries to the third-graders in the Del Mar and Solana Beach school districts. With 13 participating schools and nearly 60 students per school, DMSB Sunrise Rotary reached out to nearly 780 students this year.

So why third-graders? Third grade is when young people start to take ownership of their own possessions and students start to learn word mechanics in the second half of third grade. The pleasure you see on the kids’ faces tells the story. They show amazing interest in their new book.

The U.S. Dictionary Project started from a shared dream between two Rotarians. In 2001 it was five clubs in Southern Colorado led by the Lamar Rotary Club. These five clubs distributed 1,800 books the first year. In 2010, over 120 Rotary clubs in 14 states and 14 Rotary districts participated and distributed 39,000 hard-cover dictionaries worth over $750,000.

Here are just a few more reason why DMSB Sunrise has been part of the USA Dictionary Project for years:

• 44 million adults in the U.S. cannot read well enough to read a simple story to their child. Fifty percent of American adults are unable to read an 8th grade level book. Forty-six of American adults cannot understand the label on their prescription medicine.

• Children who have not developed some basic literacy skills by the time they enter school are three to four times more likely to drop out in later years.

• The average student learns about 3,000 words per year in the early school years (eight words per day).

• Disadvantaged students in the first grade have a vocabulary that is approximately half that of an advantaged student (2,900 and 5,800 respectively).

• 14 percent of all individuals have a learning disability.

• It is estimated that more than $2 billion is spent each year on students who repeat a grade because they have reading problems.

• Over one million children drop out of school each year, costing the nation over $240 billion in lost earnings, forgone tax revenues, and expenditures for social services.

• Low literacy is strongly related to crime. Seventy percent of prisoners fall into the lowest two levels of reading proficiency.

• And 30 percent of our children in United States will not finish high school!

This is a wonderful program and we continue to receive testimonials on how this project has impacted our youth. Growth of the project comes from word of mouth. Each of us sharing our own stories with other Rotary clubs, districts, and community members here in the United States helps this project continue to grow.

To learn more about how DMSB Sunrise Rotary makes a difference in the lives (and literacy) of children and how you can get involved, please join us Friday mornings from 7:15 – 8:30 a.m. at the Double Tree in Carmel Valley or contact President Kirk Collins at 619-254-8234, or visit