Books about Navajo help teen with spelling bee - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Education News

Books about Navajo help teen with spelling bee

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Posted: Friday, March 31, 2006 10:36 am | Updated: 4:31 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Ashley Gilmore’s little yellow book is dog-eared, torn and tattered, marked with red ink and fluorescent marking.

The book, known as the Paideia, is like a holy book for spelling bee champions.

It contains hundreds of words such as axunge and ophthalmic and lefse — words that might come in handy on Saturday, when Gilmore and 21 elementary and middle school students face off in the State Spelling Bee at Arizona State University.

Every day for months, the eighth-grader at Mohave Middle School has been reviewing the Paideia with her parents, John and Alice, highlighting those she gets wrong.

Pronouncing the words for her daughter is often a challenge, Alice Gilmore said, because many of them have roots in languages such as French or Yiddish.

To help, the Gilmores use a Web site that sounds out the words and gives their definitions — but it’s a little too slow for Gilmore, 14, who wants to cram in as many words as she can.

She estimated she spends roughly three hours a day studying the words, on top of two hours of homework and track practice — but it paid off when she won the Scottsdale Unified School District’s spelling bee earlier this year.

Her parents credited her love of reading with her spelling skills.

“I really like books about my culture, especially ones where they struggle to overcome something,” she said.

One of her all-time favorite books is “Walk in Beauty,” a story about a teenager who deals with family and romantic problems in Navajo Country.

Gilmore is proud of her own Navajo culture — evident when she arrived at a recent school board meeting to receive honors, decked out in traditional Navajo turquoise and silver jewelry.

When it comes to spelling skills, John Gilmore readily admitted that his daughter has her parents beat.

“English is our second language,” he said. “My wife and I were the first generation of English speakers.”

But they do have plenty of motherly and fatherly advice to dispense — such as take your time, and ask for definitions before spelling.

Alice Gilmore said the bee is almost as stressful for parents as for competitors. “You’re so tense,” she said. “You know she’ll be facing tougher spellers. For some of them, it’s the second or third time, and this is Ashley’s first.”

She will face stiff competition, such as Jonathan Horton, 13, who won the state title last year and tied for 22nd place in the national bee.

The winner of Saturday’s bee will compete in May in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C.

State spelling bee

When: 1 p.m. Saturday Where: KAET-TV (Channel 8) studio at ASU, Tempe Television: Highlights of the bee will be broadcast 5 p.m. April 23 on Channel 8 Information: (480) 421-9376

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