I spent a lovely evening judging the Senatobia Coterie Club’s annual Spelling Bee. All the participants, (word in last night’s bee) ranging from 5th through 8th grades, did an amazing job and should be proud. The winner of the event, 8th grader Christian Hughes from Strayhorn High School, advances to the Scripps Regional Spelling Bee in Memphis.
It was a fascinating experience. First, these students must stand in front of a large crowd consisting of eager parents, a
nnoying siblings, beloved teachers, and mean looking judges. Ha. Then, they must spell a random word (possibly from another language) correctly. It takes grit to perform under these circumstances.
Spelling words is a talent. If not for spell check, my nose would be in a dictionary daily. I blame my horrendous spelling skills on a hatred of reading that I claimed as a characteristic in elementary school. Now, we all know I really did not hate books, but I did see them as nerdish enterprises. I was athletic and preferred adventures outdoors to ones found inside books.
Imagine my astonishment when my father told me he won a spelling bee once. What?!? My dad was and still is one of the most athletic people I know. He coached football, basketball and today coaches women’s tennis at Hendersonville High School. Ugh, and all of those baseball games I had to sit through because my dad was the umpire still haunts me.
It is silly to be shocked. These kids last night were in competition. Just because they were not kicking goalies or knocking it out of the park, did not mean they were not face to face with the enemy. The sport is spelling and last night’s opponents sat side by side on a stage fighting for the right to take home a shiny trophy.
So, you ask? What does this have to do with books? Here are some suggestions to ready you for next year’s competition. Parents pick up James Maguire’s American Bee: The National Spelling Bee and the Culture of Word Nerds. Follow it with Word Freak by Stefan Fatsis and a nightly round of scrabble. Practice makes perfect.
Students will enjoy Barrie Trinkle’s How to Spell like a Champ: Roots, Lists, Rules, Games, Tricks, & Bee-Winning Tips from the Pros. For inspiration the night before the bee, I suggest you Netflix the movie Spellbound. This nail-biter follows eight young spellers as they ascend the spelling bee ladder.
Good luck next year and C-O-N-G-R-A-T-U-L-A-T-I-O-N-S to Christian Hughes.