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Twenty teams have signed up for Tuesday’s Bartholomew County Literacy Task Force Spelling Bee.
The annual event supports the Tots Reading Lots Program, which puts thousands of books in the hands of preschoolers to better prepare them for school.
Teams will compete for the traveling trophy from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday in Columbus North High School’s cafeteria.
Spellers participate in teams of three, plus one proctor. But to remove the anxiety of spelling in front of a crowd, teams submit their answers in writing.
Teams also typically come up with clever names — Potato-E, The Bee-Fuddled, Spell Czechs — and some team members wear costumes. Master of ceremonies Robert Hay-Smith typically leads the proceedings with finesse and whimsy.
“It’s an enjoyable and fun evening,” said Terry Whittaker, a member of the Literacy Task Force, owner of Viewpoint Books and one of the event’s organizers.
The top three teams get prizes, while the top team also gets a traveling trophy and bragging rights. Additional prizes are awarded for team spirit, costumes and team name.
Whittaker said teams can sign up as late as the evening of the competition.
Some of the words will be challenging, Whittaker said, but teams typically do pretty well.
In the end, he said, the evening brings enjoyment to spectators and participants and provides books to children, some of whom may have no other books in their homes. Proceeds help pay to send two books, three times per year, to about 600 families in Bartholomew County.
Teresa Heiny, a task force member, said the effort began after the flood of 2008, when the community saw a great need to place more books in the hands of children.
Heiny, who is director of elementary education at Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp., said studies have found a correlation between children’s vocabulary at age 3 and their ability to read later in life. She said low-income households have, on average, only one book in the home for every 13 children.
Children to whom family and friends read 1,000 hours before school also have a much better chance of becoming fluent readers, Heiny said.
Since the program’s inception, more than 14,500 books have been distributed to local children, she said.
Participation in the program costs $30, but scholarships are available for students who live in Bartholomew County. Applications are available at the local WIC office, 1971 State St., and the BCSC administration building, 1200 Central Ave. (376-4392).
More information: Bartholomewreads.org.
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