A reading hero is someone who inspires a love of the written word and, for many kids who have risen through the ranks to compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee presented by Kindle in May, that hero is a parent or teacher.
In fact, Spelling Bee contestant Shreeta Vachhani, age 14, from Bourbonnais, Illinois, said she has several reading heroes, including her reading teachers, her school librarian and her dad.
“Each one of these heroes have different opinions on books,” Shreeta said. “They all enjoy different genres. Their wide range of opinions have motivated me to keep an open mind and read a variety of books.”
Spelling Bee contestant Grant Taylor, age 14, from Lubbock, Texas, said his reading hero, his mom, helped him to excel by reading nursery rhymes and children's books, quickly followed by educational books he started choosing.
“By the time I was 2 years old, I was correcting her as she read, and many times, I was the one who read bedtime stories to everyone,” Grant said.
Grant isn’t the only Spelling Bee contestant who has turned adult heads with spelling ability gained from reading prowess. Spelling Bee contestant Melodie Loya, age 12, from Bainbridge, New York, attributes much of her knowledge to her reading hero, her mom, who taught her to read when she was 3, turning 4.
“It helped me a lot with spelling,” Melodie said. “I would read so much when I was younger, and I used to use words that would confound adults sometimes.”
These champion spellers say their reading heroes gave them a head start when it came to educational achievements. For example, in addition to reading “fun fiction” library books out loud when Melodie was younger, she said her mom helped immerse Melodie in a foreign language.
“I remember when we would read Chinese books together because I took Chinese classes when I was little,” Melodie said.
Reading has also helped Shreeta learn about words from other languages that have become a part of English.
“In school, when my Language Arts teachers read to my class, some unfamiliar words arise, and some of those foreign words appeared on the spelling list, so it did help,” she said. “It allowed to me understand what it means and how you can use it in a sentence.”
The impact of reading helped these young people aim for the Scripps National Spelling Bee.
“I adore reading by myself,” Shreeta said. “I find it easier to concentrate. This makes a difference in learning words because I have time to learn how to spell them and understand what it means.”
Grant said reading with his hero provided several benefits.
“I already knew how to sound out the words and identify the meaning,” he said. “If anything, reading out loud together helped me to read with emotion and expression, rather than speaking in a boring monotone. My love of reading and research has helped me to increase my vocabulary and my grammatical and typographical skills.”
Those skills helped Grant make it to the Scripps National Spelling Bee for the second time this year, skills his family helped cultivate.
“They have supported me for all these years, and they have helped me get to the Spelling Bee, again,” he said. “I'm excited to be going to the Spelling Bee a second time because this kind of thing is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
Reading heroes motivate people in other ways, too. Shreeta’s dad encourages her to chase her dreams. She hopes to be a lawyer or orthodontist, and her family supports her, no matter which career she decides to pursue.
“They wholeheartedly encourage me to achieve my dreams and goals but want to be sure I'm ecstatic after pursuing my dreams,” she said.
Melodie also counts her dad as an inspiration. “He always encourages me to work hard and spend a lot of time on spelling,” she said.
With devices, such as the Kindle for Kids Bundle, which includes the latest Kindle without sponsored screensavers and a two-year worry-free guarantee, it’s easy for families to lose themselves in a good book because it’s designed just for readers. Kindle e-readers hold thousands of books and, with features like Kindle FreeTime, Vocabulary Builder, and Word Wise, help encourage students to read more challenging books with fewer interruptions, and introduce them to new vocabulary.
Melodie said some of the books her mom read her when she was young include “Little House on the Prairie” by Laura Ingalls Wilder, The “Grandma's Attic” series by Arleta Richardson, and “The Seven Silly Eaters” by Mary Ann Hoberman.
Shreeta is reading a lot of historical books this year, such as “The Diary of Anne Frank,” and classics, such as “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury. She said she is addicted to the “Alex Rider” series by Anthony Horowitz, recommended by her school librarian.
Grant said his years of reading mean he has too many books to choose from, but he brought his personal copy of the Merriam-Webster dictionary last time he went to the spelling bee to point out a spelling error, and Merriam-Webster lexicographer Peter Sokolowski signed it.
Watch talented spellers from around the country compete in the live finals of the 90th Scripps National Spelling Bee presented by Kindle on Thursday, June 1.