At 5, Girl Becomes Youngest To Qualify For National Spelling Bee

Posted by Laura Dimock on

By Bill Chappel, NPR

Edith Fuller, 5, outlasted much older competitors in a regional spelling bee, earning a spot in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in May. KJRH, Tulsa

Edith Fuller, 5, has booked a trip to the Scripps National Spelling Bee, after she out-spelled dozens of older competitors to win a regional bee in Tulsa, Okla. The home-schooled student will be the youngest competitor ever in the national spelling bee, which will hold its 90th contest in May.

The folks at Scripps are already calling Fuller the latest "spellebrity."

Fuller beat kids more than twice her age at the Scripps Green Country Regional Spelling Bee this past weekend, outlasting dozens of other students and correctly spelling 37 words in around five hours of competition. Her final word, "jnana," is a Sanskrit word that refers to an elevated state of knowledge.

Other words Fuller had to spell to earn her way to the national bee in Washington, D.C., include sevruga; virgule; Nisei; jacamar; and alim.

It all started last summer, when Edith surprised her parents by spelling "restaurant" correctly, her mother Annie, told the Tulsa World newspaper.

Here's how Edith Fuller described her daily training regimen, according to Tulsa's KJRH TV, organizer of the regional bee in Oklahoma:

"My mommy asked me words, and every time I misspelled one, I would look at it."

As footage from KJRH shows, the bee's young champion stood out from the field in more ways than one.

Wearing a white bow, Fuller's head barely topped the back of her chair as she shared the stage with her opponents, some of whom were 14-year-olds who are in the eighth grade. And while other students were sometimes prone to nervous fidgeting, Fuller resembled an island of calm.

When she spoke to the judges, Fuller smiled as she navigated a list of words that would trip up many adults. When she returned to her seat, other students would sometimes offer a high-five or a smile — and some, perhaps understandably, simply stared as the littlest girl on stage kept advancing, using the shorter of two microphone stands so her soft voice could be heard in the auditorium at the Oral Roberts Global Learning Center.

By the end of the day, four rows of seats had been emptied and the five-year-old was the last speller standing.

Fuller represented the TBC Home Education Fellowship; now she'll be eastern Oklahoma's speller at the national bee in Washington.

"I'm going to D.C.!" she said with a smile as the event wound down, drawing applause from the audience.

If you're wondering how the spelling bee includes home-school students, organizers of the Tulsa competition say that while schools can pay a fee of either $145 (for early-bird entries) or $220 to enter their top speller, parents of home-schooled kids can pay an entrance fee of between $102 and $177.

subscribe to education email updates food blog link image learning blog link living blog link news and information blog link science and technology blog link sports blog link image

Fun activities and projects for kids, educational resources for parents and teachers, and links to SDPB and PBS learning media!

Visit SDPB's Education Site!

Related content from SDPB Radio

In The Moment ... A Fresh Look At The Atomic Age

In The Moment ... August 2, 2017 Show 147 Hour 1 As international experts predict North Korea could develop a...

In The Moment ... SD Highway Patrol And Diversity

In The Moment ... August 1, 2017 Show 146 Hour 2 A diverse law enforcement team can be a more empathetic and...

Teachers Discuss Respect For The Profession

More than 9,500 public school teachers work within South Dakota’s boundaries. Some spend more time with kids during the week than parents. State Secretary of...

In The Moment ... Elevating The Profession of Teaching

In The Moment ... June 29, 2017 Show 125 Hour 2 More than 95-hundred public school teachers work within South Dakota'...

In The Moment ... English Language Learners In South Dakota

In The Moment ... June 28, 2017 Show 124 Hour 2 Under the Every Student Succeeds Act, states must create an...