The Complete Guide to English Spelling Rules — by John Fulford
For the record, I prefer to speak of spelling patterns rather than spelling rules. Still, this accessible reference book is an excellent resource to dip into to discover the patterns that underlie spelling mysteries. It illuminates, for example, the situations where C makes a soft /s/ sound like in cent, cinch, or cycle (when it precedes E, I, and Y) versus a hard /k/ sound like in car, come, and curtain (when it precedes A, O, and U). Its chapter titles are infinitely scannable and useful—for example, “The Silent e,” “Double the Consonant,” “Using ch and tch,” etc. The introduction also gives a whirlwind tour of how English has adopted and adapted words from around the globe, as well as how lexicographers have chosen to represent those words in print.Buy the book.
Once Upon a Word: A Word-Origin Dictionary for Kids — by Jess Zafaris
This accessible guide to word origins was designed for kids, but I think it’s a great introductory text for parents as well. We, too, might enjoy learning things like why so many words derived from Arabic start with al- or that karate means “empty hand” in Japanese. Its Roots & Branches section is a goldmine, introducing some of the hardest-working prefixes and suffixes in the English language. If a passion for word origins takes root in you (or your child!), consider advancing to more in-depth resources, like John Ayto’s Word Origins: The Hidden Histories of English Words from A to Z or The Online Etymology Dictionary.Buy the book.
Scripps National Spelling Bee
Bee Week is a national summertime event that brings the best spellers from across the nation to Washington, D.C. for the Scripps National Spelling Bee finals. You can get in on the fun by watching on television, following the bee on social media, or downloading its Word Club app. On the app, your child can play spelling and word-meaning games related to the year’s official bee study list. These activities create opportunities for you to learn alongside your child; highlight the academic feats of kids from 6 to 14; and associate learning with fun, healthy competition, and connection. So many elite spellers were inspired by seeing older children who looked like them compete in the bee, so don’t underestimate the power of representation.Visit their site.
Merriam-Webster Guide to Diacritical Marks
This handy online reference walks readers through the most common diacritics—the little lines, curves, and dots that appear above, below, or beside letters in words like pâté, à la carte, and façade that English has borrowed from other languages. The marks shed light on the words’ origins. Plus, they help readers pronounce them using the correct accents, tones, or stresses. It’s the 7-minute pronunciation guide you didn’t know you needed.View the guide.
Crash Course Linguistics
This 16-episode YouTube crash course was curated by a team of linguists and based on an introductory college-level curriculum. It helps laypeople understand how linguists analyze language. In the process, it teaches us to recognize structural features of language, understand the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA), and bring more insight and compassion to debates about language.Watch the course.
A Way with Words Podcast
This upbeat public radio show and podcast explores language through the lenses of family, history, and culture. It grapples with language debates, variations, and evolution. Plus, it dives into new words, old sayings, slang, family expressions, word histories, etymology, linguistics, regional dialects. The hosts’ lively banter spans word games, grammar, books, literature, writing, and more.Hear the podcast.
Lexicon Valley Podcast
Hosted by linguist John McWhorter, this podcast explores the ways we speak, read, and write today.Hear the podcast.
This monthly deep-dive into language offers new episodes every third thursday. Its co-hosts Lauren Gawne and Gretchen McCulloch are two linguists who became friends on the internet via their blogs, Superlinguo and All Things Linguistic.Hear the podcast.
Spelling Bee Documentaries and Movies
- Spellbound (2002) – This compelling documentary follows eight teenagers on their quest to win the 1999 National Spelling Bee.
- Akeelah and the Bee (2006) – This entertaining film follows a fictional young girl from South Los Angeles trying to make it to the National Spelling Bee.
- Bee Nation (2017) – A documentary following the inspirational stories of Indigenous youth living on reserves in Saskatchewan as they participate in the first-ever First Nations Provincial Spelling Bee in Canada.
- Spelling the Dream (2018) – Originally titled Breaking the Bee, this documentary chronicles the ups and downs of four Indian-American students as they compete to realize their dream of winning the iconic tournament.