By Greg Gelpi
Danielle Currin's appetite for reading has allowed her to devour spelling bee competitors.
Currin, a fourth-grader at Arnold Elementary School, recently won the Clayton County Public Schools Spelling Bee.
Before school starts, she sits at the breakfast table with a book and lunchtime is no different. Grabbing a lunch tray, she also grabs a book to read.
"Sometimes I think I've read all of them," the 9-year-old said looking around the Arnold media center. "I just read whenever I get the chance."
Reading each of the Harry Potter books four times, she also has a strong interest in reading mysteries. On average, she reads two hours a day.
She even made her father, John, build more bookshelves to accommodate her passion and once put herself on a TV restriction.
Danielle said reading helps her spell better.
Her teacher Kay Wentzel said she wasn't surprised to learn that Danielle won the county-wide spelling competition.
"You know I was a little surprised that she beat the eighth-graders," Wentzel, who has more than 20 years in teaching, said.
The competition was open to students in fourth to eighth grades.
She described her student as "self-motivated."
"She reads so much," Wentzel said. "It's nothing for her to come in Monday morning having read three books over the weekend."
Danielle also leads her grade in the accelerated reader program, scoring 100 percent on most of her reading tests, Wentzel said.
After winning the Arnold Elementary spelling bee with the word "novelist," Danielle Currin told her teacher that she remembered the word from reading one of her books.
"She is so deserving," Wentzel said. "She is really a bright little girl."
Danielle also won the Hear Our Voices writing competition in second grade and has written about 10 stories.
"I want to write stories and be a teacher because I want to teach others to read," she said.
Sid Chapman, president of the Clayton County Education Association, which sponsored the event, said it's important to "feed the brain."
And books are brain food.
"It's important for parents to read to their children and incite that love of words before they even get to school," Chapman said. "You can have a vocabulary before you even start to read."
Danielle's accomplishment is even more impressive considering the existence of computer programs that automatically correct spelling mistakes.
"I think having computers with spell check may keep kids from taking an active role in learning to spell," Chapman said. "I have heard students say that they don't have to worry about spelling because they have spell check."
The CCEA and its parent organization, the National Education Association, are sponsoring Read Across America next month and will be celebrating the 100th birthday of Dr. Seuss March 2. CCEA members, donning Cat in the Hat hats, will read Dr. Seuss books in Clayton County schools to inspire and encourage reading.
Fifth-grader Sharifah Williams of Harper Elementary won second place at the spelling bee while sixth-grader Breanna Walker of Kendrick Middle won third. Fourth place went to Jennifer Hill, a fifth-grader at Kemp Elementary.
The winners will advance to the District Six Spelling Bee at Mundy's Mill Middle School at 10 a.m. Feb. 28. The winners from the district competition will advance to the state competition March 19 at Georgia State University.