CONYERS - Jaire Duncan, a fifth-grade student at Flat Shoals Elementary School, may say recess is his favorite "subject" in school, but everybody really knows he loves English.
On Saturday, Duncan placed second in the District 5 spelling bee, qualifying him to compete at the state spelling bee on March 21 at Georgia State University in Atlanta.
After 17 rounds of competition Saturday - and Duncan's successful spelling of such words as "tincture" and "penitentiary" - it was Fayetteville seventh-grader Logan Austin's correct spelling of "basilisk" that would win him the competition. Both will compete in the state level bee against winners from the other Georgia districts.
"Jaire did wonderful," school Assistant Principal Tammy Hightower said. "We're really proud of him, and it's amazing to see him do so well."
Duncan won the Rockdale County spelling bee earlier this month after 14 rounds of competition and spelling words like "pumpernickel" and "filibuster."He said his strategy is to think about the words and ask questions if he needs the help.
"Sometimes they are hard," he said. "I just think about them ... and just spell them."
Hightower, who taught Jaire in first and second grades, and his mother, Heather Simpson Duncan, credit his recent success with his love of reading.
"He's just an avid reader," Hightower said. "If he can get his hands on it, he will read it."
Jaire's mother said sometimes he will read books that are bigger than the books she and her husband read.
"But it's really not the size of the book that surprises me," she said. "Some of his favorite books are in Old English, and he just reads right through them like it's nothing."
Duncan said he likes books by Brian Jacques, who writes fictional novels about animals, as well as Harry Potter books and novels by C.S. Lewis.
"I've always loved to read," he said, adding that he likes the descriptions best. "I usually read every day."
With that kind of thirst for reading, his mother said she now has to get most of his books from the library, instead of buying them, because he has so many - at least a couple hundred.
"He's got some in the library, some in the playroom, some in his bedroom," she said. "We had to box up some of his books because we had so many."
She said Jaire is a good influence on his four younger brothers and sisters, as well as her and her husband.
"He's always one to correct everyone, saying, 'That's not how you pronounce that,'" she said. "We're so proud of him. A month ago, he was winning the class spelling bee, and now all of a sudden he's going to the state."
Jaire's mother said even though the fast pace of the past month has been "overwhelming," especially since this is the first time he's ever competed in a spelling bee, the family members are all doing their best to prepare him for the road ahead.
"I'm going to spell with him every day," she said. "We're going to find words that are frequently misspelled words and practice former words."
Duncan said whatever the outcome of this year's state spelling bee, he'd like to compete again next year.
Michelle Floyd can be reached at email@example.com.