The Sideshow

6-year-old is youngest National Spelling Bee contestant ever

Lori Anne Madison is already in the record books, and this year's Scripps National Spelling Bee hasn't even begun. That's because the 6-year-old from Virginia is the youngest person ever to qualify for the competition.

"She's like a teenager in a 6-year-old body," says her mother, Sorina Madison. "Her brain, she understands things way ahead of her age."

No one is expecting Madison to win the competition, where she will be competing against kids more than twice her age. But when she correctly spelled the word "vaquero" to win a regional qualifying contest in March, she became one of the 278 exceptional children who will vie for the national spelling title.

And it turns out Madison's elite skills extend beyond spelling: She recently won major awards in both swimming and math. In fact, she's so talented that when her parents tried to enroll her in a private school for the gifted, they were told that Madison was "just way too smart to accommodate."

"Once she started reading, that's when people started looking strange at us, in libraries, everywhere," Sorina Madison said. She's actually fluently reading at 2, and at 2 ½ she was reading chapter books."

However, The Associated Press notes that the one thing Madison hasn't been enjoying is all of the media attention.

"I want to go back to being a kid and playing with my friends," she said. And as a condition of her interview with the news organization, she made them tag along while she searched for specimens in a local Virginia river.

"I sort of didn't like it. I asked for no interviews, but the media seems to be disobeying me, and that's why we're looking for snails and water slugs right now."

When Madison gets older, she'll still face stiff competition for winning the National Spelling Bee. On Tuesday, NPR reported that 9 of the past 13 winners have been Indian-American, which one expert called "almost a statistical impossibility," as Indian-Americans represent less than 1 percent of the population.

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