Sure, most kids learn to walk before they can run but Daliyah Arana learned to read before she could toddle! This amazing 4-year-old was honored earlier this year by the Library of Congress for reading over 1,000 books! We recently talked with Daliyah and her mom, Haleema, about the incredible way this preschooler is leading the charge for literacy and how you can follow in her tiny, but powerful, footsteps.
RIF: Haleema, we know that you had a big hand in helping Daliyah achieve this incredible accomplishment of reading over 1,000 books. How did you inspire your little bookworm?
H: The key was getting her off to a very early start. I started reading to her right after she was born and it became something we did every day. That helped her develop a love and habit of reading books. Once she got a little older, she had the interest to keep going and that, of course, motivated me to keep growing right along with her.
RIF: Daliyah, why do you love reading so much? What is your favorite book?
D: I just love it! I love the books and the stories. The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog! [by Mo Willems] is my favorite.
RIF: Haleema, how did you get access to over 1,000 books for Daliyah?
H: Most were borrowed from our library. At our library you can check out as many books as you want – which is good because we could go through 15-20 books a week. We also had family and friends give us books for presents, and we would read some books on smartphones and tablets from sites like Reading Rainbow. The only time we buy books is when the library has a books sale where you can buy them for less than a dollar.
RIF: Daliyah, where is your favorite place to read?
D: I love to read at the library, of course, and in my sister’s closet – it’s my own private library!
RIF: What should other families know about inspiring their kids to read?
H: I want them to know how much fun it is to sit down and read with their children. And it doesn’t take hours – when they are younger, you can start by just reading 4-5 minutes a day and grow from there. Parents should know that all children are capable of reading, even those that struggle. It just takes practice and, just like with anything else, with practice comes improvement. Inspiring them to read is the perfect gift to give them that will last the rest of their lives.
RIF: Haleema, what do you like about reading with Daliyah?
H: The thing I loved most was that it created a special bond between us. And seeing her eyes light up with excitement if she’s learned a new word or could pronounce a big word she’s never seen before – those were very special moments that kept me motivated because I saw her desire to learn. It gives me great joy and satisfaction to know she believes she can really accomplish anything.
RIF: Daliyah, What do you want to be when you grow up?
D: A paleontologist! I LOVE dinosaurs.
RIF: What changes have you seen in Daliyah since she became an avid reader?
H: We’ve seen a lot of changes. She’s become incredibly confident in herself and extremely inquisitive. She has an insatiable appetite to learn, and asks us 2-3 questions a day about all sorts of topics – and she wants answers too! It makes it tough for us to keep up. One thing that I really appreciate the most about this experience is that she now wants to share her passion for reading with kids all over the world. She told me she can’t wait to go to school this fall so she can help her teachers teach their students how to read!
We loved chatting with the Arana Family about the impact literacy has made in their lives. What started as a small, sweet experience of reading together has led to a powerful young lady who is conquering the big questions of the world – one book at a time. Daliyah now counts over 2,200 books on her list and is reading small chapter books all on her own, making her way through 2-3 pages a day.
Want tips on how to start a reading routine with your littlest family members? Head over to our Literacy Milestones Birth to Age 6 Tip Sheet or our Five Essential Components of Reading List to jumpstart your own tiny bookworm.