MILDRED EUROPA TAYLOR
Atypical person in America will read about four books in a year. Prolific readers may read like 100 or 50. Daliyah Marie Arana, at the age of four, had read over 1,000 books. The Gainesville native, who started reading independently long before many of her peers, made headlines in 2017 when she earned a trip to the Library of Congress where she was named honorary librarian for the day.
“I had so much fun,” Daliyah said of the trip. Her mother, Haleema, said that while she was pregnant with Daliyah, she read books to her other young children daily. And right after Daliyah was born, her mother started reading to her. “I would pretty much hold her, and she would hear stories as I was reading to my two older children. And she was actually memorizing a lot of the words that she would see in the books,” Haleema told NPR.
Daliyah also often heard her older brother reading chapters of books out loud in their home, Haleema said. By 18 months, she was able to recognize the words in the books her mother read her. Soon, Daliyah wanted to take over and do the reading on her own, Haleema told The Washington Post. “It kind of took off from there. The more words she learned, the more she wanted to read.”
At two years and 11 months, Daliyah read her first book on her own. By age four, she had read more than 1,000 books including college-level texts. Her mom, through the 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten program, got the idea to start counting the number of books she read. Daliyah, whose favorite writer at the time was Mo Willems (author of the “Pigeon” and “Elephant and Piggie” series), could read books that her older siblings brought home from school on her own, calling for help only when she is unable to pronounce a big word, Haleema said.
Not too long after meeting the 1,000-book goal, her mother reached out to the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., earning her a special tour with the Librarian of Congress herself. Carla Hayden, the 14th Librarian of Congress, hosted Daliyah at the world’s largest library, allowing the four-year-old to shadow her as “librarian for the day.” She sat in on executive roundtable meetings, toured the children’s section of the library, read books to Hayden and met other staff members of the library.
Daliyah had before the tour been checking out books at her local library, the Hall County Library in Gainesville. She told the Gainesville Times that she would love to teach other kids to read at an early age, too.
She’s been doing that while reading more books. In July 2020, an eight-year-old Daliyah told Southern Living that she had read over 4,000 books including Michelle Obama’s memoir, Becoming.
“There’s a lot of things I love about reading,” she said. “It’s so fun. When you open up a book and go to a page, it pulls you into the story. And once you read something, you want to read more and more. And when it ends, you are just so sad. You want to continue the book when the story’s over. It’s like bittersweet.”