“My Very Own Book” – Dick Hefton
His teacher picks up a book off a stack of sixty or so, glances at the name printed on the inside cover and calls out a the name of a child in the gathering; then she hands the dictionary to a host Rotarian standing by her side. A young lad steps up, accepts the gift dictionary, and with a forced effort makes eye contact, shakes hands and gives a quiet “thank you” then returns to his place with fellow students sitting randomly on the floor. The ceremony repeats itself until each third grader at his elementary school is awarded his and her own student dictionary – each one personalized with the individual’s own name printed on the inside flap.
Even though this Rotary exercise takes place in a great number of similar scenes in Oklahoma City Public Schools annually, the description relayed here may appear routine, volunteer-time-consuming and to some, I predict, downright mundane. That is, unless you are one of the participating Club 29 members absorbing the valuable life’s-lesson taking place, seeing the pride swell and a grown-up lift that accompanies a child being singled out for recognition and support from a few unknown men and women who have done something special for you.
At each school visited, before the award of dictionaries begins, several Rotarians tell about Rotary and its mission of service; explain how the reference books can be fun and useful. and the many ways it will aid in the students’ quest for knowledge and advancement of English usage. And as the third-graders queue up, you sense a curious expression of pride and appreciation beyond what you might believe the gift deserves. However, some of these kids have never seen their name in print – in recognition or in any sign of ownership – and for many it represents the very first book to be “all their very own.” May sound absurd, but unfortunately, true.
As a new school year looms the Club 29 School Dictionary tradition rises. This action committee has a corps of loyalist but in too many cases insufficient numbers to coordinate with the schools for teacher and library assistance in printing individual names on labels and attaching them to books; arranging a day when all (usually three) third grade classes can be brought together; and added Club 29 (and friends) volunteering to be a part of the entourage making presentations.
When viewed from the perspective of the school principals, teachers, librarians, the kids and their parents – it’s a Big Deal! The more a Big Deal we view the long term return on investment of time and club resources the deeper the impression on these, our future citizens.
President Terry has highlighted education as a generator for our club year. There is a definite need for more people-power to advance the program and this is a call for more volunteers.