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Reading helps spell success

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POSTED December 9, 2008 8:24 p.m.
Jonelle Mungcal credits her love for reading as part of her recent Spelling Bee success.
The eighth-grade student from Great Valley School is the top speller in the Junior High Division (grades 7-9), winning last week’s San Joaquin County Office of Education competition.
On May 9, she’ll not only represent SJCOE but also Manteca Unified, Great Valley and the southwest Stockton community of Weston Ranch in the state event at Middle Creek School in Marin County.
Many of those attending the previous Spelling Bee functions also got involved in the competition, jotting down each word while testing their spelling abilities along with these young contestants.
Call it the home version.
I’ll admit that I wasn’t any different than many of the adults at the SJCOE event held in the Educational Service Center, scribbling down and often taking a best-guess on the spelling of some of these words.
By the way, participants were identified simply by number — Mungcal, for example, wore No. 34 — and sat at tables equipped with bottled water and a box of Kleenex.
They had 20 seconds to write down the word in their Spelling Bee booklet.
Here, there’s no capitalization to worry about,” said SJCOE Spelling Bee coordinator Meredith Davis, “but not so at the state level.”
The state level is much like the Scripps National Spelling Bee featured on national television or as shown in the 2002 Academy Award-nominated documentary “Spellbound” and the motion picture, “Akeelah and the Bee.”
After the first round, those remaining contestants must verbally spell out each word.
In the SJCOE Junior High Division, participants were involved in a written exam. They could miss no more than three words before being ousted from the table.
Too bad honesty doesn’t count as points.
One contestant misspelled the opening word, ‘besiege,” which got past one of the spell checkers. She quickly pointed out the error, took strike one, but, more importantly, received a round of applause from the crowd for her honesty.
On a personal note, I didn’t do too badly on the first round, missing four of the 20 words.
I may not read as many books as in the past, but I do find time to do the daily crossword puzzles and occasionally the word Jumble in my morning newspaper.
For the record, I misspelled “wainscot,” “zephyr,” “paucity,” and “amethyst.”
I did much better in the second round, missing only “empyrean,” “porosity,” and “ukulele,”
And in the third round, I managed to correctly spell “usurious” — this word stumped most of the remaining contestants, whittling down the field to just a handful — but missed on “bucolic,” “phlegm,” and “ephemeral.”
Mungcal and George Komure Elementary School eighth-grader Jao Obaldo were the two remaining after “bucolic,” with the winner and runner-up being determined by the correct spelling of “idolatry.”
Both students came away excited about the outcome.
“I studied hard for today’s competition — it all paid off,” Obaldo said.
As for Mungcal, she came away looking forward to another trip to the Barnes & Noble bookstore.
That’s how she celebrated her previous Spelling Bee victories, according to her mother, Michelle.

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