Times News: Literacy Council Offers Adults a Shot at Spelling Glory

Whether your memories of grade-school spelling bees are great or terrible, the Literacy Council of Kingsport is offering another shot at spelling glory.

The organization is hosting its very first Spelldown, an adult spelling bee fundraiser, on June 10 at Gypsy Circus Cider Company, 2654 Fort Henry Drive, Kingsport. It costs $15 for individuals to participate – and coming to watch is free. Gypsy Circus will donate $1 of for every pint served, and hot dogs with gourmet toppings will also be sold.

The contest is open to anyone ages 18 and up, and prizes will be awarded to the winner and first runner-up. The doors will open at 4:30 p.m., and the spelling bee will begin at 6:30. Online pre-registration is encouraged at https://lckspelldown2019.eventbrite.com.

As in a traditional spelling bee, contestants will be given a word to spell and eliminated if it is misspelled. But beware: this doesn’t work exactly like a traditional spelling bee.

Because it’s a fundraiser, there are “perks” that can be purchased for a fee giving spellers an extra advantage they may wish they could’ve had back in seventh grade.

For $5 you can buy a second chance to spell a missed word or pass on a challenging word and try another word instead. For $15 you can buy the use of a whiteboard and marker plus extra time to spell each word throughout the contest.

For $25 you can get back into the contest after being eliminated for misspelling a word – or buy a spot in the championship round, which will ultimately determine the winner.

“Maybe you’re competitive with your friend, and they make it to the championship round, and you want to knock them out, and we encourage it,” says Dawn Blake, executive director of the literacy council. “Of course, all the funds raised go right back to literacy.”

The proceeds from the fundraiser will be used to support the Literacy Council’s mission to provide free one-on-one tutoring to adults and qualified children to improve their literacy skills as well as achieve their individual goals.

Over the past 30 years, the Literacy Council has evolved to be the only organization in the region to provide free one-on-one tutoring in three program areas: Adult Basic Literacy, English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL), and Tutoring for Children and Youth in Sullivan, Hawkins and Washington counties in Tennessee and Scott County in Southwest Virginia.

The adult literacy programs often make a huge difference in people’s lives, Blake says – whether their goal is to achieve greater self-sufficiency, improve job skills, or enter into post-secondary educational programs.

It’s a big issue: in Sullivan County, the 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy reports that 12.5 percent of adults struggles to read, write, do math or use technology above a third-grade level. Blake says many of the students have achieved their individual goals, such as receiving a job promotion, obtaining their high school equivalency diploma, engaging in their child’s education and graduating from local area colleges.

“It’s amazing when you see where they started when they entered the program, observe their progression over time as they develop key literacy and life skills and celebrate their success as they achieve their individual goals,” Blake says. “It’s just quite inspiring.”

The Literacy Council of Kingsport is partially funded by the United Way of Greater Kingsport and receives funding from local community chests, grants, individual and business donations as well as through various special events throughout the year, including an annual Scrabble tournament that just wrapped up its 13th year and the upcoming trivia game night fundraiser scheduled for August. A second Spelldown is scheduled in the fall.

For more information or to donate to the Literacy Council of Kingsport, you can e-mail lckingsport@gmail.com or call (423) 392-4643.