Do you take for granted your ability to read and write? Whether you do or not, this statistic will blow your mind: 1 in 5 native, English-speaking adults in Central Texas can’t read or write well enough to fill out a job application.
Founded in 2001, the Literacy Coalition of Central Texas is doing something to change this startling fact. This local organization exists to improve the quality of literacy education in our area, and to increase its availability for those who need it. It’s a centralized hub that coordinates with more than 70 literacy programs in the Austin area.
As with any non-profit, fundraising is always a requirement. Ten years ago, the Literacy Coalition came up with a fun way to raise money, while providing a unique night of entertainment for supporters. The Great Grown-Up Spelling Bee is the biggest fundraiser of the year for the Literacy Coalition. “In the last four years, we’ve doubled the number of people receiving literacy services, and it’s because of this event,” says Executive Director Meg Poag.
10th Annual Great Grown-Up Spelling Bee
The 2013 Great Grown-Up Spelling Bee took place at the newly renovated Zach Theatre. After a pleasant cocktail hour in the lobby, energized Spelling Bee teams and event attendees filed into the theatre.
With FOX 7’s Keri Bellacosa at the mic as emcee, teams filed onto the stage to take their turns spelling words at the mic.
As a first-time attendee at the Grown-Up Spelling Bee, watching adults in ridiculous costumes agonize over the spelling of words like “dipsomania” and “sipid” is a novelty. Plus, there was a gentleman with a tuba in the audience who plays a humorous tune whenever a team strikes out with an incorrect spelling. The beauty of this event is that it’s incredibly entertaining, while keeping us all focused on the reason we came.
The Great Grown-Up Spelling Bee works like this: After hearing their word pronounced and used in a sentence, the team can ask for the word to be repeated only once. They have ten seconds to discuss the word as a team, and then team members must take turns spelling at the mic. No definitions or other information about the word is given, and the ten second limit is pretty firm!
Each team has one mulligan card to play during the Spelling Bee. This allows them to pass on a word, but then they have to go on and spell the next word (which tends to be just as hard as the first).
At the end of the day, the Dell team took third place, Kirkus/Texas Book Festival received second, and the Spelling Demons won first place. Geoff Thevenot, Becky Dyer and Dave Riddle – the individuals who composed the Spelling Demons team – were three community members participating for the love of language and literacy. Good on them!
Though his Capitol duties kept him away this year, Senator Kirk Watson has been the Spelling Bee pronouncer for eight years. A large number of local companies sponsored the 10th Annual Great Grown-Up Spelling Bee, including HEB (Event Underwriter), Silicon Labs and Austin-American Statesman.
Why the Literacy Coalition of Central Texas Matters
- 43% of adults with the lowest literacy levels live in poverty.
- Texas ranks 47th out of the 50 states in adult literacy levels.
- Educating one adult returns nearly $18,500 annually in salary earned, taxes paid, and reduced reliance on public assistance after just one year.
- Every $1 invested in the Literacy Coalition translates to nearly $3 in literacy instruction at area programs.
- 200 volunteer instructors are trained in research-based literacy instruction techniques every year.
To learn more about the Literacy Coalition of Central Texas, visit WillRead.org.
Would you participate in the Great Grown-Up Spelling Bee?