Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Why Does America Love Spelling Bees?

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Why Does America Love Spelling Bees?

Article excerpt

Each year, the spring rolls around, bringing with it several things for many Americans to be excited about: flowers in bloom, warmer weather, the end of school, and, of course, the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Since 1925, the annual orthographic competition has brought together students from around the United States - and beyond - to be whittled down through several rounds of intense examination that produce a national champion. This year marks the 89th edition of the national bee, with a field of 45 finalists competing through the final round, each hoping for a chance at the Bee championship trophy and $40,000. Amazon, Merriam-Webster, and Encyclopedia Britannica are also contributing prizes to the eventual winner.

This year's bee will be slightly different than the last two, which both featured co-champions for only the fifth and sixth times in Scripps history. Sriram Hathwar and Ansun Sujoe rolled through the Scripps word list before a tie was called in 2014, and Vanya Shivashankar and Gokul Venkatachalam were declared co-champions last year.

The success of those students may have partially prompted the implementation of a harder, longer championship round in an effort to crown a sole winner this year. And it's proven tough, so far: The first finals round Thursday saw 24 out of 45 children misspell their words, eventually leaving a field of 10 finalists for the Bee's conclusion.

That change is indicative of the E.W. Scripps Company's focus on considering feedback from schoolchildren and parents, helping it maintain its popularity over a near-century of competition. Scripps corporate communications manager and Bee spokesperson Valerie Miller told The Christian Science Monitor that the bee's efforts to adapt, as well as a personal nostalgia factor, make the Bee relevant to viewers year after year.

"It's an experience that everyone can relate to, and it kind of draws them back to their own childhood," Ms. …

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