Buzzing About the National Spelling Bee: by Marilyn Ostermiller

The Scripps National Spelling Bee is an rite of spring for school children throughout the United States and its territories. By May 24, when the national championship rounds begin in National Harbor, MD, outside Washington DC, an estimated eleven million students will have competed in the initial rounds.

This is the eighty-eighth National Spelling Bee. The event has been held annually since 1925, except for three years during World War II. To be eligible to compete, the students, eighth graders and younger, must attend a school that is enrolled in the program.

The first National Spelling Bee was sponsored by the Louisville (KY) Courier-Journal in 1925. Eleven-year-old Frank Neuhauser won when he spelled “gladiolus” correctly. His prize was $500 in gold, a bicycle and a trip to the White House to meet President Calvin Coolidge, according to an article in the Washington Post when he died in 2011.

Over the years, the competition has gotten stiffer. This year students from Bahamas, Canada, China, Ghana, Jamaica, Japan, South Korea competed as well. The words are more difficult too.

Last year, for the first time since 1962 – and the fourth time overall – co-champions were declared at the Bee.

Sriram Hathwar, a 14-year-old speller from Painted Post, New York, spelled “stichomythia,” which is defined as “dialogue especially of altercation or dispute delivered in alternating lines.”

Ansun Sujoe, a 13-year-old speller from Fort Worth, Texas, correctly spelled the word “feuilleton,” which is defined as “a part of a European newspaper or magazine devoted to material designed to entertain the general reader.”

They were each awarded the grand prize of $30,000 and an engraved trophy from sponsor, E.W. Scripps Co., news and information provider. Merriam-Webster and Encyclopedia Britannica will give the winner reference libraries.

The Bee is designed to help students improve their spelling, increase their vocabularies, learn concepts, and develop correct English usage.

If you would like to attend the National Spelling Bee, admission is available on a first-come, first-served basis. The details will be available at:  beginning May 1.

You might want to check out these short videos from last year’s Spelling Bee:

1. Six-year-old girl is the youngest ever to qualify for the National Spelling Bee

2. Highlights of the 2014 National Spelling Bee:

Marilyn OstermillerThis post was prepared by Marilyn Ostermiller, a long-time business journalist who has begun writing for children. You can follow her on Twitter @Marilyn_Suzanne.