Reading is power, it’s entertaining and most importantly, “it stimulates and exercises my mind”, says Mateo Joubert, of Eastridge, who placed second at the national spelling bee in Pretoria recently.
The avid reader represented the Western Cape on Saturday October 29 where he competed against 27 children from nine provinces, ranging from Grade 4 to Grade 6.
The Imperial Primary pupil won the Western Cape leg of the competition, which was held at the V&A Waterfront in August, before heading to the finals.
Flipping through a 400-page book at Mitchell’s Plain Town Centre library, Mateo said he had enjoyed participating in the competition.
“When I stood on the stage in front of the audience and judges, I felt nervous and excited at the same time. I felt proud and blessed to represent my school, community and province. At the finals, I pictured the words in my mind, spelt it in my head and then said it out loud,” he explained.
Mateo said he loves spending time at the library, and visits the facility two to three times a week. He said he specifically reads adventure, science fiction and factual books at the library.
Throughout the competition, he was mentored by a teacher at the school, Alfonso Smith, and assisted by the librarians at the library.
“A big thank you to everyone who helped me, to my mother for encouraging me, my mentor for pushing me to do my best, the staff at the library for taking the time to sit and help me spell words and the community for rooting for me,” he said.
Mateo said he would spend at least an hour at the library two to three times a week reading a range of books.
“There are times when my mother would go and do her shopping and I would ask her if I could go to the library instead. Reading opens a different world and it is amazing how you connect with the characters and journey with them. It also helps me with my school work, such as languages, maths and science,” he said.
His mother, Yvette, said she was overwhelmed when she saw how well her son was doing at the competition.
“I sat in the audience with tears in my eyes, because this child of mine was doing exceptionally well. He spelt the words with confidence and remained focused. Mateo has had a passion for reading from a young age and reads just about anything, encyclopedias and even online books.
“Mateo worked hard for the competition, he was determined and even woke up early to practise words. As a single mother I am proud of this young boy,” she said.
Ms Joubert said the next step is to get her son into educational programmes as he is good at science and maths.
Mateo said his future goal is to become a radiologist.
“To be able to achieve this, it will require hard work and focus, something I am willing to do with the help of God,” he said.