A passion for reading and a “no screens” rule at home helped Camps Bay Primary pupil Zoe Starkey win the provincial spelling bee.
Zoe, in Grade 6 who had earlier aced the metro bee, then made it through to the second round in the national spelling bee, in Pretoria, at the weekend.
Zoe described how contestants had been called one at time to spell words in the nail-biting elimination rounds.
“It’s a gradual sensation that you’ve won. There were four people and one of them got it wrong. It kind of dawned on me that I was in the top three in the metro.”
She said the winning word in the provincial competition was “handkerchief”.
“I was in a deliriously happy state. I knew the word and I had spelled it right.”
Zoe loves reading, and believes it is best summed up by a quote on her classroom wall that says reading is a way to travel when you have to stay where you are.
“I like that because it’s true. You can open a book and go anywhere.”
She said the provincial competition had used words that weren’t on the list given to the pupils to study beforehand.
One of those words was “narcissism”, and Zoe got it right. Her nemesis at the nationals proved to be “dichotomy”.
Zoe said she had learnt a lot from a spelling game, Oxford Spelling Challenge
Her mom, Andrea Shaw, said the whole family read at home.
“Zoe started reading quite early and has always loved reading. She’ll read across a range of genres and non-fiction as well. We also went with the school’s policy of no screens and no phones until Grade 7. We were all nervous at the provincials.”
Kelly Harding, a Grade 6 teacher at the school, said they had a discussion about which pupils had the potential to make a meal of the spelling bee.
“Zoe stood out, and then I approached the parents. We were only aware of the competition just before the holidays. Zoe had to learn a 1 000 words in total.
“Zoe was committed from the beginning and practised during lunch hours.”
She said she was very proud that Zoe was the regional champion.
Principal Stuart Collier said the school encouraged reading from the preparatory school level.
“Zoe has a natural love for reading as well and I think that helps.
“We are exceptionally proud of her because we have never had a pupil who has gone so far in the competition. We were very excited.”