Note: This post is part of a series on School Library Media/Materials for a course

Burns, Michael (Producer), & Atchison, D. (Director). (2006). Akeelah and the bee [Motion picture]. USA: Lionsgate.

Akeelah, is an 11-year-old girl living in South Los Angeles, who discovers she has a talent for spelling. At first she tries to ignore her talent, wanting to fit in more than excel in school (despite already having skipped a grade). Eventually, Akeelah realizes that she wants to participate in the National Spelling Bee. Despite her mother’s objections and insistence that she focus on summer school, Akeelah doesn’t give up on her goal. With help from Dr. Larabee, a former National Spelling Bee contestant, and overwhelming support from her community (who see Akeelah’s achievement as a win for everyone), Akeelah might just have what it takes to go all the way to the Nationals.

Akeelah and the Bee is a wonderful film for the library and classroom. It explores multiple themes including self-acceptance, community, and courage. The film also highlights diversity. Few films star African American children as primary stars, and even fewer feature African American females. The film shows a world that may be familiar to some students and thus grab and keep their interest. For students unfamiliar with life in South Los Angeles, the film will provide them needed exposure to the world outside their own. The only weakness I can see with the film is that it is a standard Hollywood film with a Hollywood ending. While it is nice to have a feel-good film, it feels a little unrealistic to the cynic in me. The film can be used to support spelling curriculum or as supportive material with other texts with similar themes. One that comes to mind is A Bad Case of Stripes, which also features themes about being true to one’s self. I feel that this title is especially important for New Mexico libraries because our African American population is very small and so materials for the African American community may be overlooked when developing a collection, for those students who are looking for texts that represent them or with whom they may identify, not matter how they identify themselves.

English/Language Arts Standards:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.8.7 Analyze the extent to which a filmed or live production of a story or drama stays faithful to or departs from the text or script, evaluating the choices made by the director or actors.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.7.1 Cite several pieces of textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.7.2 Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text; provide an objective summary of the text.

Links to supporting content:


National Spelling Bee

Champions and their Winning Words

My Spell-It

Akeelah and the Bee Review Guide


Subjects/themes: Self-acceptance, courage, overcoming obstacles, community