Zaila Avant-Garde is a multitalented 16-year-old from New Orleans. She won the Scripps National Spelling Bee in 2021, becoming the first African American to win the competition in almost 100 years. She was named the 2021 SportsKid of the Year by Sports Illustrated Kids, a dynamic basketball dribbler and juggler, and a three-time Guinness World Book record holder.
Avant-Garde is also the author of the books Words of Wonder from Z to A, and It’s Not Bragging If It’s True, and spoke with rolling out about the books, and winning the national spelling bee,
Who can this book inspire?
I’m going to focus on adults here. I think it can maybe bring you back to your childhood. Like my parents, they sometimes read little kids books just because that kind of brings them back to their childhood and you’re remembering all that warm, fuzzy stuff. Maybe you had a little group in the library and they were reading a little children’s book to you or something like that. That’s a very specific thing I have, just to remind an adult who’s maybe reading this book to a kid, but they’re kind of reading it too because they are getting a lot of warm, fuzzy moments from reading a book.
What advice would you give to young people?
You can do it. I don’t know what it is. I don’t know what you’re trying to do. But you can do it. I know that sounds really trite and cheesy, but it’s true. One should always keep that in the back of their mind. Don’t let somebody else tell you that you can’t do it. I cannot count the times that I’ve been on the basketball court and tried to play pickup with some boys and they’re like “Oh, she’s a girl, you don’t have to guard her. Don’t worry about that.” Trust me, five minutes later, they are guarding me. Just because I’m a girl doesn’t mean I’m not better than you. So I would definitely say that just in general, you can do it. Another one that I will say is don’t do something that you’re not passionate about. Let’s say you went into dancing at a young age, but you don’t really love to dance. You can get good at that, but say if you’re not passionate about it, you are not going to be like Misty Copeland. You can’t be great at something that you’re not passionate about. So if you sense that you don’t have a passion for it, forget about it, unless you just want to be kind of mediocre because you can’t be great at something you’re not passionate about.