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Saturday, August 20, 2011

Fathers and Daughters and Books Read Aloud: The Reading Promise by Alice Ozma

As regular readers of my blog know, this year I am happily participating in the Support Your Local Library Reading challenge. I'm reading more than I have in a long time and seeking out book recommendations every chance I get. The Reading Promise by Alice Ozma was recommended to me by a close friend who is also a librarian.

I was intrigued by the idea of a father and daughter's years-long-every-night-without-missing-once reading streak. My own father read to me as a girl. Through him I was introduced to the Chronicles of Narnia and the Hobbit. But we didn't read together every night. It was not a ritual for us. As I remember, it was more of a way to pass the time on a long car trip when it was my mom's turn to drive.

All the same, the sound of my dad's voice as he read aloud is one of my favorite memories of childhood. So when I had a child, I read to him regularly myself. Then I had the idea of convincing my father to tape record a cassette of my son's favorite stories for his bedtime listening. Of course, I also made read aloud tapes of my own voice, my husband's, and his grandmother's. But it was my dad's voice that returned me to my past. It was as much a gift for me as for my son.

Alice Ozma's father, Jim Brozina is a school librarian with a passion for reading aloud to children. Interestingly, he also has a hearing loss. This is not a major theme of the book, but it is mentioned several times. Naturally, that made me relate to the story on another level.

When I began this memoir, I wondered how the account of their reading accomplishment, while quite amazing, could fill up 279 pages. As I read further, I discovered their story offers much more. It is an inside look at a single father raising two daughters. It is a description of the unrelenting determination needed to overcome the obstacles inherent in achieving a lofty goal. It's the biography of Alice Ozma's childhood.

You may wonder, as I did, why The Streak, as they dubbed it, was so important to her. The answer, I think, is when her mother left, her grandparents died, and her sister went overseas as an exchange student, The Streak became something she could rely on when her family dynamics were changing. She and her father began officially when she was in third grade and ended the day she left for college. They read nightly for 3,218 days. The most memorable books they read are listed at the end.

Here's a brief selection from the book:
We called it The Reading Streak, but it was really more of a promise. A promise to each other, a promise to ourselves. A promise to always be there and to never give up. It was a promise of hope in hopeless times. It was a promise of comfort when things got uncomfortable. And we kept our promise to each other.

I highly recommend this book to all book lovers. This title is #37 on my reading list. I still have more than 4 months of reading before the challenge is over. Do you have any recommendations for me?


Bill Graham said...

The Help by Kathryn Stockett (now a motion picture...great book)
World Wide Mind by Michael Chorost (cochlear implant user, visiting professor at Gallaudet)

SpeakUp Librarian said...

Thanks, Bill. Those are great recommendations.