Book obsessed teen places at national spelling bee

Megan Lake, second from the left with the other New Zealand Spelling Bee winners. Supplied image.

A self-confessed bookworm puts her love of reading down to her success at the New Zealand Spelling Bee.

Year 10 Otumoetai College student Megan Lake placed third equal in the competition.

Megan says she is surprised by her win against 17 other year 9 and 10 students from around the country.

“I wasn’t expecting to win at all because I thought everyone would be a lot better than I was.

“I’m definitely quite happy to get to third place because I wasn't expecting to even get that far in the competition.”

Her mum Cathy is surprised by the win as well but is very happy for her daughter.

“I'm still quite surprised. It's luck of the draw on the words though as well, so she was quite lucky that she got some words that she had heard of or could guess at.”

Cathy puts Megan’s success down to reading as well.

“She reads so much. One of the words that one of the kids got out on was just on the page of the book she'd been reading that morning.”

Cathy says some of the words the competitors were asked to spell were words a lot of the adults in the audience had never heard of.

Some of the words Megan had to spell were maharaja, supine, bulwark and she went out on the word irascibility. 

To prepare Megan went over the competition word list a few times as well as her usual reading.

“I went over the list of words we were given a few times, probably not as much as I should have and read lots of books, so not really any different.”

Megan won $500 for her efforts and is putting the money into savings.

Surprisingly her favourite subject at school isn’t English but design and visual communication which she likes because it’s similar to art but with clean lines.

She is also learning Mandarin and Spanish and enjoys playing badminton when she isn’t engrossed in a novel.

The year 9 and 10 spelling bee has been held since 2005 and the competition starts with classroom spelling tests of 100 words.

The top 250 students qualify for the semi-finals and then 18 go on to compete in the national final.

Organiser Janet Lucas says the event is a competition against the dictionary. It is aimed at encouraging students to develop a love of language and help them improve their spelling, comprehension and communication skills.

“It’s a sport with an intellectual focus and an exciting learning journey for students to learn words they can use with confidence for the rest of their life.”

In addition to the National Spelling Bee for Year 9 to 10 students, the New Zealand Spelling Bee offers a Classroom Spelling Bee for Years 1 to 8.

The New Zealand Spelling Bee has grown significantly since 2014, when the Wright Family Foundation came on board as the programme’s sole sponsor, allowing it to expand into primary and intermediate schools. About 800 primary and intermediate schools now sign up for the classroom programme every year.

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