ST wins accolade for The Big Spell

The Straits Times has won an international award for its execution of a national spelling contest among schools here.

The RHB-The Straits Times National Spelling Championship, which attracted 1,200 primary-school contestants here, has been presented a jury commendation in the World Young Reader Prize (Brand category) by the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-Ifra).

The award honours newspapers for outstanding marketing campaigns and community actions which engage the young. WAN-Ifra represents over 18,000 publications, 15,000 online sites and over 3,000 companies.

The competition, anchored by The Straits Times' weekly magazine for primary schools, Little Red Dot, was publicised on Facebook and via on-air spelling games on radio, visits to schools by radio DJs and a website with a spelling game. Spelling tips in Little Red Dot created extra buzz.

The event, dubbed The Big Spell, was sponsored by Malaysia's RHB Banking Group in partnership with the Education Ministry. The National Library Board and Speak Good English Movement were supporting partners.

Little Red Dot editor Serene Goh, attending WAN-Ifra's first Asia-Pacific Young Reader Summit in Bangkok this week, received the award yesterday.

She said from Bangkok: "This one is great because it marks how the 'Newspapers In Education' efforts have grown up and given birth to an event that succeeds across other media platforms too - radio, print, online and TV."

Dr Aralynn McMane, executive director of WAN-Ifra's Young Readership Development, said via e-mail: "The lesson for other countries in The Big Spell comes from very smart marketing an packaging strategies used to update a pretty mundane, old-timey activity into something new and modern." 

Noting that Asia-Pacific is where 62 per cent of the world's 15 to 24 year olds live, she said: "We need to be leaders in literacy, as well as news and general media literacy, to ensure a next generation that can not only read well, but gets excited about words."

More than 70 delegates from 39 newspapers worldwide are in Bangkok for the Young Reader Summit. WAN-Ifra has been giving out the World Young Reader Prizes for more than a decade.

India's bilingual tabloid daily, inext, was named World Young Reader Newspaper of the Year.

ST's win this year is its third award from WAN-Ifra: In 2006, its weekly magazine for secondary schools, IN, won a special jury commendation in the World Young Reader Prize competition.

In 2010, IN garnered another ribbon in the Newspapers In Education category.

sherquek@sph.com.sg