Elm City residents and Yale affiliates will compete at a spelling bee to raise money for New Haven Reads, a nonprofit that aims to improve literacy in children struggling with reading.
The 5th Annual New Haven Reads Spelling Bee will take place on Oct. 21 at the Yale School of Management auditorium. Forty-two teams of three people each have already registered for the event, which is anticipated to raise over $30,000, according to New Haven Reads Assistant Director Fiona Bradford.
“I think we are all getting lazy at spelling because of spell-check,” said Bethany Appleby ’89, a member of last year’s winning team. “I’m sure my spelling is rusty at this point.”
Each team pays $225 to register, though New Haven Reads can help match teams with community sponsors to cover the hefty registration fee. The event will be open to the public, with a suggested donation of $10 for entrance and total capacity for 350 attendees.
Appleby said the event, in which she participated last year with her mother and a friend, provided an opportunity for her to spell things in her head without using Google or spell-check. Appleby added that there was less pressure to perform, as being on a team allowed participants to avoid being alone on the spot when they did not know any given words.
This year, Appleby will participate again, and her team will include John Carpenter, the first person to win the United States version of the famous TV game show, “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” in 1999.
The Spelling Bee serves as New Haven Reads’ major fundraiser for the year and will allow its facilities to remain running and staffed, since the program does not charge children for its services.
New Haven Reads was founded in 2001 as a community book bank aimed at redistributing gently used books to households that lacked them, according to Bradford. A year later, when a mother requested reading assistance for her child, the organization began its tutoring program.
New Haven Reads has now grown to serve over 500 children at four locations, Branford said.
One such location is situated just off of Bristol Street, where children in first grade through high school meet with volunteer tutors in a room full of colorful books. Groups of children meet each evening for individualized attention between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m.
New Haven Reads Executive Director Kirsten Levinsohn said there is currently a waiting list of over 120 students who want to join the program. She explained that many parents hear about the organization from friends and family members, but school administrators have also begun recommending the program to struggling students.
Levinsohn said the program tests children’s reading levels in the spring and fall, and that 99 percent of students enrolled in the program show improvement over that period.
However, she emphasized that New Haven Reads is about more than just literacy, since volunteers are teachers, mentors and cheerleaders for children. Levinsohn herself tutors two children, and has been meeting with them for over two years.
“[Students get] someone consistent in their lives that really cares about them and that is really valuable,” Levinsohn said.
The other three New Haven Reads sites are located at Dixwell Avenue, Science Park and Willow Street.