SHEFALI Fernandes is only ten years old but she has already read more books in ten weeks than some adults will in a lifetime.
The Year 5 pupil at Holy Rood Catholic Junior School, read a grand total of 605 books in just 10 weeks for the national Read for My School competition from the National Book Trust.
Shefali, who lives with her parents and younger brother and sister in the town centre, never expected to win the competition, despite her speed-reading talents.
She said: “When they read my name out I was so shocked. I never expected it because I thought there must be people older than me who had read thousands of books.
“It wasn’t luck though. I believed in myself and it was hard work but we don’t get anywhere without hard work.”
The youngster first started reading at the age of two after her family moved to Swindon from Goa in 2003.
She said: “When we first came to England we didn’t have anything by way of entertainment, so I read a lot and now it is a bit of an obsession. We have a TV now but I still don’t watch it.
“During the competition my parents just took me to the library every week and I borrowed more books.
“I just read all the time, during my break time and lunch breaks, and even when I was brushing my teeth.
“Now I want to win next year’s competition too.”
As well as her favourite titles from authors including JK Rowling, Jacqueline Wilson, Enid Blyton, Cathy Cassidy and David Walliams during the competition Shefali also tackled English literature adventure classics including Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, and Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island.
She said: “With reading you can escape and be part of another world.
“I now have my brother and sister following in my footsteps, and my best friend reads all the time now as well.
“It also really helps stretch your imagination and expands your vocabulary.”
The youngster, who wants to be a writer when she grows up, beat more than 200,000 pupils in Years 3 to Year 8 in schools across the country.
In a ceremony in Westminster last week Shefali came away with a top prize of a £50 Waterstones gift voucher, a family theatre voucher from the Society of London Theatre, a set of Recommended Reads, a hand drawn illustration by Booktrust Writer in Residence Chris Riddell and a certificate to commend their achievement.
Tony McAteer, head teacher at Holy Rood, was delighted with Shefali’s achievements.
He said: “I am proud of Shefali. She did extremely well. “We know she’s got a voracious appetite for reading and reading is something that’s important in the school so it’s wonderful it was won by a pupil from Holy Rood.”
To find out about the Read For My School competition and how you could take part, visit booktrust.org.uk/programmes/primary/read-for-my-school.