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Little boy craves big words

By Greg Gelpi

When many watched "The Matrix," they were captivated by the computer animation and action-packed scenes. When Kareem Lewis watched, he was hanging on to every word.

Lewis, a fourth-grader at Brown Elementary School, watches television and movies to expand his vocabulary.

The 9-and-a-half-year-old student was named the fourth-grade champion of the Reader's Digest National Word Power Challenge at his school.

"There's not really a secret," Lewis said. "When I hear big words on TV, I try to use the words in a sentence. I ask my mom and dad what the word means."

He explained that he took a vocabulary test for the contest while at Suder Elementary last semester and did well enough to take another test against everyone in the school. Again, his scores were the best.

He couldn't contain his excitement when he learned of his test score.

"I started dancing in the classroom like Michael Jackson," Lewis said.

He has made it a practice to listen for big words and look them up in a dictionary and try them out in a sentence.

His favorite words are "hypothetical" and "inevitably," which he picked up while watching "The Matrix."

"I try to enhance my vocabulary by using bigger words," Lewis said.

The only time he minds looking up the "big" words in a dictionary is when it cuts into his cartoons, he said.

Lewis said he would like to be a basketball player or a scientist when he finishes school.

"I want to be a scientist because I have a theory about a hover board," Lewis said. "I see the stuff they have on TV and they it's not possible, but it's possible if you know how to make it."

He grew excited describing his idea of using magnets to make a skateboard to hover above the ground.

"At first he just wanted to be a professional basketball player, but lately he has started to expand," his father, Michael Lewis, an Atlanta firefighter, said. "He started to develop a passion for (science) recently."

Michael Lewis said there is only one word to describe his son n a "joy."

"At his age he can really pick up a word and dissect it," his father said. "He's just like a sponge. He just soaks up everything around him."

Michael Lewis said his son can be in a room of adults and can pick up on multiple conversations, deciphering words and ideas.

Kareem's mother, Karen Lewis, is a teacher at Mundy's Mill Middle School.

Mary Duncan, who has taught Kareem for only a few weeks at Brown, said she quickly recognized his talents and abilities.

She said he "poured his heart and soul into a project," adding "at that age you don't see that."

Lewis needs to be challenged, she said.

"He doesn't give up," Duncan said. "I have very high expectations of my students and he reaches them."

Kareem will advance to the statewide competition of the Reader's Digest National Word Power Challenge Feb. 27.