Daliyah Marie Arana’s face breaks into a smile when asked why she loves to read.
The Gainesville Academy pre-schooler has been reading since she was about 2 years old. The 4-year-old recently completed the Georgia 1,000 Books B4 Kindergarten Program, which challenges children to read 1,000 books before their first day of kindergarten.
Daliyah read them all before she started preschool.
“She was about 2 1/2 when we signed her up for it,” said Haleema Arana, Daliyah’s mother. “Most of the kids she graduated the program with were a little bit older.”
Daliyah said she likes learning about dinosaurs and reading books about adventure. Her favorite author is Mo Willems, whose books are targeted to children in pre-K through third grade.
Haleema Arana said she and her husband, Miguel Arana, started reading to their daughter “right when she was born.”
“And I have two other small children too,” Haleema Arana said. “So she’d heard us reading stories to them, as well. We would literally read every day, about 15-20 minutes a day. By the time she was 18, 19 months, we realized she could recognize a lot of the words. And we kind of took it from there.”
The Arana family frequents the Hall County Library’s Gainesville branch, and Daliyah even has her own library card. Recently, Daliyah expressed to her parents a desire to be a librarian — not when she grows up, but as soon as possible.
“She came up with the idea,” said Miguel Arana, her father. “She wants to help her classmates learn to read.”
The family is hoping to partner with the library to allow Daliyah to become “the youngest librarian for a day.” Haleema Arana said she would love for 1,000 new children — one for every book Daliyah read — to visit the library and sign up for a library card.
Reading has improved Daliyah’s spoken abilities, as well. While her voice squeaks like the average 4-year-old, her language is vastly more mature.
Her mother posted a video of Daliyah to YouTube, reading a college-level speech titled “The Pleasure of Books,” by William Lyon Phelps. In it, Daliyah says, “Books are of the people, by the people, for the people. Literature is the immortal part of history; it is the best and most enduring part of personality.”
When asked why she wants to be a librarian, Daliyah talks about her love of books, but her real hope is deeper.
“I like to check out books every day,” she said. “And I want to teach other kids to read at an early age, too.”
Both parents stressed the importance of reading to young children. In Daliyah’s case, it introduced her to a long-term hobby and love at an incredibly early age.
“We know that’s where it comes from,” Haleema Arana said. “Their little brains are absorbing so much. They’ll just soak it up.”