JOPLIN, Mo. —
Fifteen teams will battle for the title of spelling bee champion in Joplin’s annual Spell Ball, which is set for Tuesday night.
The Spell Ball serves as the primary fundraiser for Joplin NALA (Neighborhood Adult Literacy Action) Read, a nonprofit organization that provides tuition-free literacy and tutoring services to the Joplin area, director Marj Boudreaux said.
Running alongside the spelling bee will be a silent auction of more than 100 items, including gift baskets, gift cards from Joplin restaurants and vendors, tickets to Cardinals and Royals games, and a Branson vacation package.
Proceeds from the event will go toward program needs, such as buying books for clients, or operating expenses, such as utilities and salaries, Boudreaux said. Additional funding throughout the year comes from United Way of Southwest Missouri and Southeast Kansas and from other donations.
An estimated 8 percent of Jasper County residents lack basic prose literacy skills, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. About 7 percent of Missourians and nearly 15 percent of all Americans lack literacy skills, the organization said, citing data from the U.S. Department of Education. Boudreaux said that translates into about 7,000 Jasper County residents who read below a sixth-grade level.
“You can read that high and get by in a lot of things, but you can’t advance in jobs,” she said. “And if you read below a first-grade level, you probably can’t read prescription labels (or) the note your child brings home from school.”
Boudreaux said Joplin NALA serves up to 150 individuals per year through its literacy and reading and math tutoring services as well as through an outreach program with Lafayette House. Nearly three-quarters of its clients are in the English as a Second Language program; the rest are students in its adult literacy program.
She said the organization will likely host a training workshop sometime next month for people interested in volunteering as a teacher or tutor.
“We have teachers who are trained to teach English as a Second Language,” she said. “We have other tutors who work with American students who need to improve their reading, all the way from first-grade (level) to sixth-grade (level), and sometimes even higher than that, depending on what their goals are.”
Want to go?
JOPLIN NALA READ’S annual Spell Ball will begin at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the 11/12 campus of Joplin High School, located at Northpark Mall. Admission is free; food and snacks will be available for purchase.