The Reading Promise: My Father and the Books We Shared is not what I expected from its title. It is much more. I was initially intrigued by both the book’s title and its cover, figuring it would focus (as the title indicates) on the books that one man and his daughter shared while she was growing up and how the reading impacted the little girl’s life. That would have been enough to satisfy me. As it turns out, The Reading Promise does focus on their reading, if not so much on specific books, but it is more about how “The Streak” helped to create a very special bond between this father and daughter.
The Streak is, of course, the hook that will draw most readers to Alice Ozma’s memoir. Imagine this: 3,218 consecutive days during which Jim Brozina read aloud for a minimum of ten minutes to his daughter, Alice, regardless of what was going on in either of their lives during this eight-year period. The Streak started when Alice was in the fourth grade and it did not end until she left home for college. During this period, Alice’s mother would leave the family, her older sister would leave home for a year as an exchange student, Alice would grow into a young woman with friends and plans of her own, and her father would begin dating again. But, despite a few near misses (one caused by her father’s terrible case of laryngitis) and logistical problems caused by Alice’s sleepovers with friends (during which the reading was accomplished by telephone), the reading streak survived until the two consciously pulled the plug on it at exactly the right moment.
Jim, an elementary school librarian whose passion was reading to classes when they visited his library, used the reading streak to teach his daughter about life as she was experiencing it. As Alice puts it, “What he was doing specifically, was trying to use The Streak as a solution to a problem. It was something he did often, even it he wasn’t doing it intentionally. There were just trends: after my mother moved out, we read stories about young girls without mothers. When there were bullies at school, we read about kids who outsmarted their nemeses rather than resorting to fistfights.”
There is no doubt that Jim and Alice are very close – or that The Streak had much to do with assuring they would be so. Jim also believes that all of that reading, and the general love of books that Alice developed, also had plenty to do with making her an accomplished student. She was one of only three eighth grade students (of more than 300 in her class) to score “advanced proficient” in her state’s reading test; she had the highest PSAT in her eleventh grade class; and she won to first place awards in a national competition during her senior year.
Alice believes that The Streak was “really more of a promise.” She and her father promised to each other that they would always be there for each other, and the reading provided comfort and hope when they needed it most. Jim and Alice believe in “the power of the printed word” and they feel a responsibility to treasure and protect it, no matter what. The two believe that literature has the ability to change lives for the better. Who would better know than them?
Rated at: 4.0