Generally speaking, I really don't approve of computer-based games for children and I do my very best to discourage my own kids from discovering the apparent allure of this pastime. However, there are a few rare exceptions! If the Internet and The Times's Spelling Bee website had been around when I was at school, my parents would have battled to prise me away.
For all children of school age, The Times newspaper's Spelling Bee website is a fantastic resource and learning tool, helping to transform the attitudes of children who've previously thought that learning to spell is a dull and tedious chore. Equally though, it offers addictive and productive appeal to children who do really enjoy spelling! Its numerous and fun spelling games can be played either individually, thereby allowing your child to learn at their own pace or, to really stretch their ability, the head-to-head games can be played competitively against friends. The former helps to build children's confidence in their spelling and language skills and the latter has the benefit of maximising children's natural desire to learn and to constantly improve their spelling range and vocabulary.
It's not only individuals who are discovering the educational entertainment value of the Spelling Bee's website. As many as one thousand schools entered the 2009-2010 Spelling Bee Championship and the players who participated are now able to privately view their personal national ranking. So if your child's school isn't already competing, do encourage it to get involved! A new Championship year started just two days ago (on 6th September), so now is the ideal time to get on board!
The Spelling Bee's appeal was recently extended to cater for younger children too. There's now a dedicated Mini Bees area aimed at 5-11 year olds, which allows primary school children to select their game level, according to their reading age and there's also the option to choose subject-themed games, such as Nature or Science.
If all that's not enough fun at your kids' fingertips, you can also indulge yourself, by downloading The Spelling Bee's mobile app if you have an iPhone or Windows mobile - and testing your own spelling prowess! It's a great way to numb the drudgery of a daily commute – assuming, of course, that you don't drive yourself to work! Just don't get too engrossed, only to discover that you've missed your station!
Is spelling really important nowadays though, with modern technology to help us out? Despite reports of record achievements in A' Level results, we continue to hear repeatedly about the abysmally low standard of English amongst school leavers. This must, undoubtedly, be compounded by the widespread trend amongst school children (and many adults) to habitually write in the abbreviated and brutally phonetic "TextSpeak". Whilst spell checks on computer software can help to pick up mistakes, they're not foolproof and aren't always available or suitable. Such heavy reliance on these tools is, arguably, contributing to the general apathy about learning to spell well, unaided.
Sadly, grammar, punctuation and spelling are becoming dying skills, yet everyone knows the importance of creating a good first impression. When the time comes for school leavers to face the highly competitive challenges of job hunting, it's an applicant's written command of the English language which can really make them shine amongst a galaxy of other less luminous hopefuls. Employers frequently hear candidates confidently declaring their aptitude for "… paying attention to detail…", yet it's staggeringly common for the accompanying job applications and CVs to be littered with spelling mistakes and grammatical or punctuation errors.
The Spelling Bee deserves a hearty pat on the back, for offering a fighting chance to reignite a real pride in spelling accurately, amongst future generations of school leavers and employees.
Please do introduce your children and their schools to the excellent Spelling Bee website, at www.timesspellingbee.co.uk.