How One Girl’s Love for Reading Led Her to Become the Scripps National Spelling Bee Winner
“Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.”—Emilie Buchwald
Anupama began reading to her daughter, Ananya, as a baby. She would take her to the public library every week to pick out books to take home. Reading became a special bonding moment between the mother and daughter. Little did Anupama know, she was helping Ananya develop a love for reading that would eventually play a role in her becoming the 2017 Scripps National Spelling Bee Winner.
Ananya, now 12 years old, credits her interest in spelling to her love for reading. Through books she discovered many genres, which opened her eyes to the world around her at a very young age. She really enjoys reading Greek myths. The stories help her find an interesting way to remember a lot of different words. She particularly likes the word ‘mnemonic.’ It comes from the Greek Goddess Mnemosyne, the Goddess of Memory, and refers to any learning technique that aids information retention in human memory.
It’s safe to say that Ananya has a pretty good memory herself. We had the unique opportunity to talk with her about her whirlwind national spelling bee experience.
- What was it like to win the Scripps National Spelling Bee?
It was a culmination of all of my hard work. My dream came true and I was really happy when it happened. When I heard the final word, I immediately knew I was going to win. It just took me a little bit to process the fact that I had actually won.
- What did you do to prepare for the competition?
There are published lists online that are good resources, so I started studying those words to get the experience that I needed. I studied for about two to three hours every day. At first, I read the words from the list and then read and listened to the pronunciation. As I improved, I changed my method to something that would help increase my retention of the words. I would type up the words from the dictionary into a document, listen to the pronunciation, read over the information to understand the language of origin and how that or the root of the word affected the spelling.
- Were you able to pull upon your experience in Kumon throughout the process?
Kumon taught me a lot of words, but that was just one aspect. The daily discipline I learned in Kumon really helped me in my training. The repetition and the process you take for each task translated into how I prepared for the spelling bee.
- What did you enjoy most about Kumon?
Because of my love for reading, the Kumon Reading Program was definitely my favorite. It really intrigued my initial interest in books and helped develop my passion for reading even further. I really liked all of the reading excerpts that were included in the program because it was a great way to introduce me to even more words and new books. I’ve pretty much read all of the books on the Kumon Recommended Reading List.
- How did Kumon’s advance study help you in school?
I started doing Level J in the 5th grade. Doing high school math at that time was really challenging, but it helped me in school because I had already seen all of the concepts. The practice just reinforced them. I was already used to thinking critically when it came time to do certain critical thinking and analysis in school. Because of that, it wasn’t hard for me to think deeper about text or language. Because I was so advanced in Kumon, I was able to do a lot of my homework at school, which freed up a lot of my time to study for the spelling bee when I got home.
Ananya said that spelling to her is like an adventure sport. There’s fun, exhilaration and tension at the same time. Now that she’s won the Scripps National Spelling Bee, she wants to start focusing on her next adventure—math and science competitions. We look forward to following her continued success.
“I know it’s only a small victory in the grand scheme of the things and I may not save the world, but I would like to take this as a new beginning.”—Ananya