Third-graders from across Eagle County received a gift of possibilities this holiday season.
Possibilities: n. - one's utmost power, capacity or ability.
For the 12th straight year, local Rotary Clubs gave a dictionary to every Eagle County third-grader - 5,000 and counting.
"Every year they give our third-graders dictionaries and it has become a rite of passage of sorts for our students," said Anne Heckman, principal of Brush Creek Elementary School, where local Rotarians passed out dictionaries Thursday.
The kids understand they're lucky. Lucky: adj. - Having or bringing good fortune.
"We are always so excited when Rotary comes with the dictionaries for our third-graders," said third grade teacher Ann Olin. "The dictionaries themselves are very nice and have lots of pictures and interesting facts in them. The kids just love to look through them and discover new things. It gets them excited about learning."
A tradition is born
When Rotarians gave dictionaries to those first 300 third-graders a dozen years ago, some thought it would be a one-shot/one-year deal. Then an adorable second-grader bounded up to one of them on distribution day and proclaimed, "I'll get my dictionary next year, right?"
Without a moment's hesitation, the Rotarian looked into that child's bright blue eyes and said, "Yes you will."
And that's how traditions are born. Tradition: n. - The handing down of statements, beliefs, legends, customs, information, etc., from generation to generation.
The Vail-Eagle Valley Rotary Club started it in 2001 with 300 books. Other local Rotary Clubs quickly took up the cause. Like the children who get the dictionaries, the project grew.
Local Rotarians kick-started the project with what we'll call an investment: n. - the investing of money or capital in order to gain profitable returns, as interest, income, or appreciation in value.
Local Rotarians raised the rest of the money, much of it through their annual Labor Day Rubber Duck Race down Gore Creek through Vail Village.
Now, 120 Rotary Clubs in 14 states are part of it, distributing dictionaries to more than 45,000 children every year. Dictionaries USA is run by Rotary Clubs in Colorado Springs.
Books contain the wisdom of the ages. Owning and reading them creates expectations, both in the kids and adults.
When the kids were asked if they could define "expectations," almost seven dozen hands shot straight into the air.
We could tell you that according to their new dictionaries, it's defined this way: Expectations: n. - The act or state of expecting: anticipation in expectation of what would happen.
Third-graders who don't read proficiently are four times more likely to drop out or flunk out of high school, studies say.
One in six children who do not read proficiently in third grade do not graduate from high school on time, a rate four times greater than for proficient readers, according to the report, "Double Jeopardy: How Poverty and Third-Grade Reading Skills Influence High School Graduation," commissioned by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.