At Just 4 Years Old, This Latina Already Read 1,000 Books & Delivered MLK’s “I Have a Dream” Speech

Lead Photo: Photo by Johner Images
Photo by Johner Images
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Most preschoolers would struggle to read Martin Luther King Jr’s poignant “I Have a Dream” speech, but Daliyah Arana is not most 4 year olds. Because young girl has already breezed through more than 1,000 books, one school in Georgia entrusted her to deliver the activist’s words to celebrate his birthday. They likely saw the YouTube video of her flawlessly reading “The Pleasure of Books” – a college-level text written by William L. Phelps that includes words like punctiliousness. Her mother, Haleema, gave her the text as a reading challenge.

Haleema has fostered the young girl’s love for reading since she was born. As a result, by 18 months, Daliyah could recognize words in books. By age 2, her mother helped her read an estimated 1,000 books. But it wasn’t until she turned 3 that the family began tallying the number of books Daliyah consumed. Inspired by the 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten program, Haleema decided to keep a record of all the books her daughter read. Now that Daliyah has met that goal, she aims to read another 500 before she starts kindergarten in the fall, so that she can “help the teacher teach the other kids how to read,” Haleema told the Washington Post.

After Carla Hayden, the 14th Librarian of Congress, invited the young bibliophile to Washington DC, Daliyah’s story has gone viral. Dressed in a pink dress and matching bow, Daliyah received a tour of the world’s largest library from Hayden on January 11. “She just kept saying how the Library of Congress is her most favorite, favorite, favorite library in the whole wide world,” Haleema said.

For someone who feels as at home at the library as Daliyah, visiting the Library of Congress was an amazing opportunity. But when she returned home to Georgia, she likely hit up her local spot, as she’s known to do. “I like to check out books every day,” she told the Gainesville Times. “And I want to teach other kids how to read.” However, she likely had to cut her reading time short this past week to practice the “I Have a Dream” speech. In an interview with NBC News, Daliyah said she practiced the speech between 10 and 20 times.

The very accomplished 4-year-old will likely reach her goal of 1,500 books by fall, but her next challenge may very well be becoming fluent in Spanish. Raised in a bilingual household, Daliyah is exposed to Spanish because of her Mexican father, Miguel Arana, but she’s currently working toward reading in the language, too.