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Zaila’s Secret to Awesomeness

Zaila Avant-garde is a spelling champ and a record-holding dribbler. Now, she’s also an author!

Zaila Avant-garde smiles and holds a trophy at a microphone.

Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images Entertainment

In 2022, Zaila Avant-garde won the Rising Star Award at the Bounce Trumpet Awards, which recognize excellence in Black Americans.

Zaila Avant-garde has done some incredible things. She’s a world-record basketball dribbler She’s a spelling champ. And now, she’s an author! Avant-garde’s new book is called It’s Not Bragging If It’s True: How to Be Awesome at Life.

The book’s title comes from Avant-garde’s mom, Alma, who told her to be proud of the things she’s done. “It’s not bragging if it’s true!” Alma reminded her. Avant-garde holds three world records related to basketball, including a tie for dribbling the most basketballs at the same time. In 2021, she won the Scripps National Spelling Bee, a spelling contest for kids from all over the United States and a few other countries.

In the book, Avant-garde shares stories about her life and offers advice for kids. She writes that she sets goals for herself and then works to reach those goals. 

“It’s a lot of hard work,” she told CBS Mornings. “But it’s easy to do the hard work because it’s fun.” 

One of Avant-garde’s tips for kids is to help others. Another is, “Don’t be afraid to ask for help.”

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In 2021, Zaila Avante-garde won the Sports Illustrated Sports Kid of the Year Award.

Avant-garde has many goals for the future. She’s planning to go to college, where she wants to study science and play basketball. Someday, she hopes to study the human brain. 

“I’m super interested in the inner workings of the human mind,” she told People magazine. “I want to at least help solve the almost unsolvable puzzle of how the human mind works, or maybe solve it all together.” 

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Fun Fact

© Partha Kar/; Animation Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

Zaila Avant-garde won the Scripps National Spelling Bee in 2021 by spelling the word Murraya. Murraya is a word used to describe a type of tropical tree.

How to Dribble a Basketball

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Here are some tips for dribbling like a pro!

  • Dribble with one hand at a time. 
  • Practice dribbling with your right hand and your left hand. This will let you switch hands during a basketball game.
  • Keep your wrist and elbow loose. 
  • Control the ball with your fingers, not your palm.
  • Bend your knees.
  • The ball should not be higher than your waist.
  • If you’re playing in a game, it’s important to look at the other players, not the ball. Practice dribbling without looking at the ball.

Spelling Stars

A man presents a trophy to a teen girl as her family looks on and her brother hugs her.

Drew Angerer/Getty Images News

Zaila Avant-garde won the National Spelling Bee in 2021. Fourteen-year-old Harini Logan, seen in this photo, won in 2022.

Winning the National Spelling Bee is a big deal. There’s a lot more to learn about this major spelling contest!

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Word of the Day


Part of speech:



: someone who knows a lot about many different things

Definitions provided by
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How many words can you make from these letters? Each word must be at least three letters long. Each word must use the word in the center of the flower.


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