Reading is fundamental to top county speller

May 24, 2004|by SCOTT BUTKI

BOONSBORO - Even before he was born, Blaine Ford, Washington County's representative in next week's 77th annual Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee, was being exposed to words as his mother read to him.

When able, Ford, 13, started reading books on his own, and reading and reading - sometimes rereading books at least 10 times to get nuances missed the first few times, he said.

"He has always read a lot," said his mother, Donna Ford.

All that reading has made him into a good speller, Donna and Blaine said.

"I read a lot, which helps," he said.

Even when faced with a word he does not know, he usually can remember a similar or related word and figure out its spelling, he said.


"He is a very intuitive speller," Donna Ford said.

That system has served him well so far, Blaine said.

Two years ago, he won the sixth-grade spelling bee.

Last year, he didn't win because he made a mistake, he said.

This year, the eighth-grade student at Boonsboro Middle School came in second at his school and moved on to the Washington County Spelling Bee, which he won on March 13 after correctly spelling "offertory."

The spelling bee is sponsored by The Herald-Mail Co., which will provide an all-expenses paid trip for Blaine and his mother to the National Spelling Bee, being held May 30 to June 4 in Washington, D.C.

The rounds in which students can be eliminated start Wednesday, June 2.

Asked what he likes about spelling bees, he said, "It is something to win."

Blaine, son of Donna Ford and Tim Burtner, was praised by his school principal.

"We are very proud of Blaine. He is not only a great speller, but a great student and a fine young man," principal Renee Foose said.

For less than one hour a day, Blaine studies a list of words that could appear in the national spelling bee, Blaine said. He studies for the competition when he has free time at school and, at night, with his mother.

He shrugged when asked if he is nervous about the competition, but said the county contest actually is more difficult because he is competing in front of his friends.

He used to read mainly nonfiction, but has been reading more fiction lately, he said. His favorite fiction authors are Brian Jacques and Dennis L. McKiernan, he said.

While he likes to read, Blaine said he does not like to write.

His hobbies include soccer and playing with snakes, he said.

For more information about the spelling bee, go to on the Web.

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