Tonight is the National Spelling Bee finals. Each year, children in elementary and middle schools (at least in public schools that I know of) compete to qualify for the Regional Bee, hosted by either a community organization, a newspaper, or an E.W. Scripps (formerly Howard Scripps from my own short-lived Bee days) company. Once they win their local spelling bee, spellers qualify for the national bee semifinals before the big show, now aired on ESPN. Spelling is a sport, people!
Why I Love the Bee (despite placing 15th in my regional bee in 1996):
– In this day and age of SpellCheck, some children are actually learning how to spell words using the dictionary.
– Spelling reinforces many other academic skills. The practice booklet divvies up words into categories, including words found in classic Literature, science, social studies, and pop culture (had I studied the Oklahoma! page more, I would know opportune has two “o”s, not two “u”s). Exposure to these titles and concepts could spark interest in going beyond memorizing the words.
– Spelling reinforces memory and reasoning skills. Despite being archaic languages, the ancient Greek and Latin roots provide a system to follow if your memory fails you.
– Watching the Bee exposes the public to many new, fun words, like serrefine (2007).
– Words are generally awesome. Everyone has a favorite word: favorite for the way it rolls off their tongue, favorite for what it means; favorite for the connotations. My grandfather’s favorite word was pusillanimous. I have no idea why, for grandpa was the antithesis, with his leathered skin, smoker’s-lung-gruff voice, and rakish face.
Fun Facts about the Bee:
– The first winner: Frank Neuhauser, sponsored by the Louisville Courier-Journal, in 1925 for the word gladiolus.
– 1937’s winning word: promiscuous.
– The most recent winner: Kavya Shivashankar, from the Olathe News in Kansas. Her word: Laodicean. This year, her little sister, Vanya, is the youngest to compete. She’s 8 years old.
Three cheers for the spellers tonight!