Reading no challenge for Leila

As students celebrated Australian Reading Hour this week, we meet a young girl who has completed the Premier’s Reading Challenge 22 times this year.

Image: Leila with one of her favourite books, Paper Planes by Steve Worland.

When NSW went into lockdown earlier this year, Leila Spataro’s main concern was would she have enough books.

The Year 3 North Sydney Demonstration School student has just completed the Premier’s Reading Challenge reading a staggering 440 books since February.

Under the Challenge Years 3-4 students are asked to read 20 books across six months, meaning Leila completed the feat 22 times.

Leila said the day before libraries closed, her family borrowed 98 books for her, using all the family library cards.

During the lockdown she also read some of her mother’s and grandparents’ books, bought books online and borrowed books from a neighbour.

“My mother says if it wasn’t for libraries, we would have no money, but we’d have … books,” said Leila.

Her ability to almost swallow books is helped by the fact she is a fast reader and doesn’t get car sick.

“I love to read in the car when we go out, otherwise I get bored. I do not get in the car on the weekend without a book," Leila said.

She counts among her favourite writers Enid Blynton and Jacqueline Harvey, but also loves to read Bear Grylls.

“I like to feel like I’m in the story,” Leila said. “Some are so dramatic, that I feel like it’s true. I can feel that I’m a different person in another world and learn how to feel like them.

“I learn about different things, especially in books like Bear Grylls series where I can learn different ways to survive in different situations. I would like to meet Bear.”

Leila said she read for an hour each day from 7.30pm until 8.30pm “when my mother makes me turn the light off”.

“We argue most nights [because] I always insist on finishing the chapter and don’t want to stop in the story,” Leila said adding that she wakes at 6am to get another hour of reading in before school.

Her habit is helped by the fact she doesn’t have a device and doesn’t watch TV.

“Reading is more interesting than playing on a device or watching TV. You learn different ways of doing things,” she said.

“In some books you can learn interesting skills for survival in unexpected situations.”

Leila said her reading habits were instilled in her as a baby when her mum would read to her every night.

“I did not learn to read until Kindy. Mum and I would read together, then by Year 1 Mum stopped reading to me because I would finish the page before her,” she said.

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