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Spellers sought for national Spelling Bee

15 January 2008

Spellers sought for national Spelling Bee

Year Nine students looking for a challenge to kick off the year should register for the New Zealand Vegemite Spelling Bee 2008.

The Spelling Bee is an opportunity for the participants to show off their spelling prowess under the watchful eyes and ears of judges while their fellow peers, who are also nervously awaiting their opportunity to spell, look on.

The event is designed to help students improve their spelling, increase their vocabulary, and develop correct English usage.

What the students will be most interested in however, says Janet Lucas, Spelling Bee event manager, is the prize package which for the overall spelling champion is a return trip for two to Washington DC to compete in the 81st Scripps National Spelling Bee in May. There are also airfares to the Final in Wellington on 22 March, Franklin electronic dictionaries, tuition at the Kip McGrath Education Centres and subscriptions to the New Zealand Listener.

“There is about $20,000 worth of prizes so it is a great incentive to take part,” says Janet.

The New Zealand Vegemite Spelling Bee 2008 is open to all Year Nine students under the age of 16 and eligible for a New Zealand passport.

This year will be the fourth year that New Zealand is represented at the US Spelling Bee and Janet says it is exciting to see the event grow each year.

“It is wonderful that New Zealand students who don’t have a tradition of spelling bees - unlike the US which held its first national spelling bee more than 80 years ago - show an interest in competing this way.”

Spellers keen to enter can register on They have summer to study a word list of 300 words to help them prepare for their regional competition.

Janet says the New Zealand Vegemite Spelling Bee uses everyday words, unlike the US final that is well known for its often obscure, tough words.

"Whilst the Spelling Bee is a competition, the overall aim is to ensure spellers just give it a go as they are guaranteed to learn new words which they will have for the rest of their lives.”

Janet says good spellers are often voracious readers. They also know basic spelling rules and understand how words are formed. After that it is a matter of understanding basic roots, how words come together and language origins.

“Often however, the competition involves an element of luck.” she says.

This is the first year that Vegemite has sponsored the event and Janet is grateful that the much-loved thick black spread has ensured New Zealand’s national spelling competition can continue.

Karen Wheelahan, sales and marketing manager, says Kraft Foods is delighted to be supporting New Zealand's Spelling Bee with its number one spread, Vegemite.

“There are strong synergies between the two brands. Vegemite is loaded with vitamins and minerals, especially Vitamin B, great for vitality and keeping minds bright and attentive,” she says.

The other supporters are the New Zealand Listener, ZM, Franklin Electronic Publishers, Oxford University Press and the New Zealand Dictionary Centre.

The US Spelling Bee is the world's longest run academic competition and has been held more times than the Academy Awards. In America it attracts more than nine million competitors hopeful of winning a place in the championship final.

The competition, inspired by the American Oscar-nominated movie documentary “Spellbound”, is overseen by a charitable trust.

For information about competition dates, registration, study and the rules, go to


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