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The Reading Promise: My Father and the Books We Shared

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When Alice Ozma was in 4th grade, she and her father decided to see if he could read aloud to her for 100 consecutive nights. On the hundredth night, they shared pancakes to celebrate, but it soon became evident that neither wanted to let go of their storytelling ritual. So they decided to continue what they called "The Streak." Alice's father read aloud to her every night When Alice Ozma was in 4th grade, she and her father decided to see if he could read aloud to her for 100 consecutive nights. On the hundredth night, they shared pancakes to celebrate, but it soon became evident that neither wanted to let go of their storytelling ritual. So they decided to continue what they called "The Streak." Alice's father read aloud to her every night without fail until the day she left for college. Alice approaches her book as a series of vignettes about her relationship with her father and the life lessons learned from the books he read to her. Books included in the Streak included: Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, the Oz books by L. Frank Baum, Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, and Shakespeare's plays.


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When Alice Ozma was in 4th grade, she and her father decided to see if he could read aloud to her for 100 consecutive nights. On the hundredth night, they shared pancakes to celebrate, but it soon became evident that neither wanted to let go of their storytelling ritual. So they decided to continue what they called "The Streak." Alice's father read aloud to her every night When Alice Ozma was in 4th grade, she and her father decided to see if he could read aloud to her for 100 consecutive nights. On the hundredth night, they shared pancakes to celebrate, but it soon became evident that neither wanted to let go of their storytelling ritual. So they decided to continue what they called "The Streak." Alice's father read aloud to her every night without fail until the day she left for college. Alice approaches her book as a series of vignettes about her relationship with her father and the life lessons learned from the books he read to her. Books included in the Streak included: Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, the Oz books by L. Frank Baum, Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, and Shakespeare's plays.

30 review for The Reading Promise: My Father and the Books We Shared

  1. 5 out of 5

    Ann

    I loved the concept but intensely disliked the book. I am amazed people thought it was well-written, because it felt like a little kid trying to write an adult book. I found the language stilted and conversations unrealistic. In spite of spending every night reading together, I never felt any warmth or affection between them. There were some hints about a very troubled childhood, including a suicide attempt and abandonment by her mother. But, that is barely mentioned. In fact, the father is so c I loved the concept but intensely disliked the book. I am amazed people thought it was well-written, because it felt like a little kid trying to write an adult book. I found the language stilted and conversations unrealistic. In spite of spending every night reading together, I never felt any warmth or affection between them. There were some hints about a very troubled childhood, including a suicide attempt and abandonment by her mother. But, that is barely mentioned. In fact, the father is so clueless that he only notices the mother left when he comes in expecting Thanksgiving turkey and finds it still frozen. There is an older sister, but she leaves as early as possible and never looks back. So Alice lets her father read to her every night from the age of 10 until she leaves for college at 18. There is very little discussion of the books they read. It seems he just liked to hear himself read and she just liked to listen. I am glad the two of them found something they could do together, but I do not think that is the answer for everyone. Although I am a fierce advocate of reading, and think no child should go to bed with a story, I am not sure most teenagers and their parents would share reading choices.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Nicole

    This should have been a great book. A librarian dad and his daughter promise to read together every night and do so for nearly 9 years. The problem is these are two very odd people that I didn't enjoy spending time with. Dad oscillates between being clueless (he didn't notice that his wife left him on Thanksgiving because he was too busy raking leaves) and buddy-buddy with his daughter. (When he arrived home from his father's viewing at the funeral home, he complained to his eleven-year-old daug This should have been a great book. A librarian dad and his daughter promise to read together every night and do so for nearly 9 years. The problem is these are two very odd people that I didn't enjoy spending time with. Dad oscillates between being clueless (he didn't notice that his wife left him on Thanksgiving because he was too busy raking leaves) and buddy-buddy with his daughter. (When he arrived home from his father's viewing at the funeral home, he complained to his eleven-year-old daughter about his siblings not making room for him. Rather than talk about her grief, the daughter asks Dad how that made him feel.) Daughter thinks she is precocious and the center of the universe. At ten, she decides to drum up sales at Dad's book fair by making announcements over the school PA system. For his part, Dad didn't even know that she'd left the library. And it gets worse from there. Alice tells us about changing her name (yes, she'd THAT kid), about her family making fun of her funeral for her Beta fish (hmm, maybe Dad should have, you know, been there for her when her grandfather died), about making fun of boys during meetings of the We Hate Boys Club (or some such thing). What Alice doesn't tell us is about the books she and Dad read and the impact they had on her. She really should have gotten a ghost writer, one who didn't think she was precious and her Dad was an ideal parent. Skip this dud.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Hilary

    I loved the idea of this book and was excited to start reading this one. I love reading aloud and apart from the odd night when my daughter is on a sleepover or residential I read aloud every night for at least half an hour and have done since my son was born 18 years ago, so I was looking forward to hearing about this family's read aloud experience. There was actually very little about this element of the book, apart from snuggling up to her dad and listening I don't recall any description of w I loved the idea of this book and was excited to start reading this one. I love reading aloud and apart from the odd night when my daughter is on a sleepover or residential I read aloud every night for at least half an hour and have done since my son was born 18 years ago, so I was looking forward to hearing about this family's read aloud experience. There was actually very little about this element of the book, apart from snuggling up to her dad and listening I don't recall any description of what the daughter did whilst her father read. Surely she must have done the odd jigsaw puzzle, painted a picture of the story, sat by the fire, taken the book to the beach or on a picnic? This is what we do and I was really hoping for the read aloud scenes to be described. I wanted to hear about the voices her father might have done for characters or meals they might have been inspired to cook or places they might have been inspired to visit by the stories they read but this wasn't mentioned, unless I missed that bit. Then the author said her dad would always read to himself first to either see if it needed censoring or just to rehearse! That must have really spoiled the book for him! Someone used to reading aloud really doesn't need to do that as your eyes see ahead anyway. If he didn't do that they would have had time to do twice as much! Their decision to continue the reading streak when Alice was on a sleepover meant their reading was continued on the phone. I couldn't help wondering if their passion for continuing their streak was more about having something to cling to, a daily ritual to replace the happy family life that was missing rather than a true love of reading together. The rest of the book concentrated on Alice's home life, which seemed quite sad with mum gone and a new relationship for her dad. There was a list at the back of the book that had some of the books they had read, pity they hadn't kept a record from the start as they had forgotten some so it read like an average persons goodreads shelf and not the impressive list I was expecting.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Kathrina

    Here's an aphorism that needs to be debunked: Being a frequent reader does not make you a better person; all that this book proves is that being a frequent reader makes you more well-read. You will still suffer the same dysfunctions the non-reading public suffers, but maybe you can quote Dorothy Parker every once in a while for solace. I'm on the bus with the need to read with and to your kids, and a lesson in endurance and loyalty to the cause goes down nice and easy. But author Ozma spent so m Here's an aphorism that needs to be debunked: Being a frequent reader does not make you a better person; all that this book proves is that being a frequent reader makes you more well-read. You will still suffer the same dysfunctions the non-reading public suffers, but maybe you can quote Dorothy Parker every once in a while for solace. I'm on the bus with the need to read with and to your kids, and a lesson in endurance and loyalty to the cause goes down nice and easy. But author Ozma spent so much time making excuses for her father's ice-cold demeanor and her mother's abandonment and selfishness, I never felt comfortable both with her family's strange dynamics or the comfort that a bedtime story should invite, but never did here. Her father never TOUCHES her, aside from their nightly reading. I mean, no hug, no kiss, not even shaking hands. Of course the child will be begging for a thousand-night streak of reading, if only it guarantees a little warmth and acknowledgement from the one parent left in her house. Ice, I tell you. And I love that Dad is a dedicated school librarian who painstakingly creates his book collections and strives to create a comfortable reading environment with furniture, art, light music, etc., (all an attempt to counter his isolating personality, I'm guessing), but when Ozma consistently reminds us how often he rehearses his readings, not just for his students, but his own daughter, it frightens me to see how afraid he is to be authentic with his own child. What about the shared excitement of speculating a plot? Why does Dad need to be such a control freak? Why can't he let his daughter know he sometimes makes mistakes, but the world doesn't end regardless? Even worse, he CENSORS bits of ya literature that make him uncomfortable, but are both essential to the plot and important for a young girl to consider, especially in this isolating household. Dad can't broach the subject of bras, even to the extent of using an author's words instead of his own? What a selfish ass...Worse, Ozma seems to think this is -- cute. Oh my silly dad. No, your dad is a wimp, a phony, and a hypocrite. Read, but read it my way. I was really amazed that Ozma wrote a chapter pretty much advertising her father's singlehood. Any single women out there who hate to be touched, love to be relentlessly teased with sarcasm, and look forward to every major holiday spent with the ex? Write in! This book is not what I expected, nor is it what the cover and blurbs convey. This is not about how particular books shaped a child's worldview. It's about an OCD dad who dumped his politically-correct and therefor good-father-approved obsession with books on his daughter in an attempt to connect, where all other normal father-daughter connections failed. Ozma matures into an empathetic, impassioned adult, but it still feels like she doesn't even understand the strange compulsions that govern her father, even though the only perspective we have on their relationship is her own writing. It ends well, or at least dramatically, with the threat of the end of reading and her father's strategy to fight it, and I'm behind that 100%, but I think it's important to realize that reading won't solve every problem or be the appropriate stand-in for an otherwise emotionally insufficient father-daughter relationship. I hope that Ozma continues to write, and branches off into less personal territory, since it's her family that is perplexing, not her writing. There is a lovely chapter about the death of her alpha fish that reads well all on its own, and even her parents come off as somewhat engaged and empathetic. Ozma writes very persuasively from the vantage of precocious child interpreted through the matured older self. I think she could write a dynamite children's book, ala Beverly Cleary. Just please leave Dad out of it.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    This is a wonderful book. Some of the chapters were laugh-out-loud funny. A couple times, as I was reading while Ellie nursed, I looked down to find that she had stopped nursing and was laughing along with me! :) As a lover of books and reading, this book hit [almost] all the right notes for me. Her last few chapters (after The Streak ended) were not as compelling. But other than that, a great book. As a teacher, I read out loud to my students a few times a year. I usually read them "Pippi Longst This is a wonderful book. Some of the chapters were laugh-out-loud funny. A couple times, as I was reading while Ellie nursed, I looked down to find that she had stopped nursing and was laughing along with me! :) As a lover of books and reading, this book hit [almost] all the right notes for me. Her last few chapters (after The Streak ended) were not as compelling. But other than that, a great book. As a teacher, I read out loud to my students a few times a year. I usually read them "Pippi Longstocking" because the chapters are fairly self-contained (perfect for one period) and SO FUNNY. I wish now that I had read aloud to them more. This book reinforced in me the belief that listening to a story is not wasted time. Highly recommended - particularly to anyone who is thinking about reading to kids: their own sons or daughters or nieces or nephews or any other well-loved children in their lives!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Andres

    Full disclosure: I didn't actually finish this book. I made it through 9 chapters (85 pages). Then I skimmed forward through the rest of the book and found more of the same, which caused me to close this book and accept defeat: I was done in by an excess amount of earnest precious- and precociousness. The problem here is that the title and subtitle promise one thing but the book delivers something else. If you've seen other of my reviews of books about books, it's clear I love this genre. This bo Full disclosure: I didn't actually finish this book. I made it through 9 chapters (85 pages). Then I skimmed forward through the rest of the book and found more of the same, which caused me to close this book and accept defeat: I was done in by an excess amount of earnest precious- and precociousness. The problem here is that the title and subtitle promise one thing but the book delivers something else. If you've seen other of my reviews of books about books, it's clear I love this genre. This book is really more about the author and her father in that there are more father/daughter moments of their life than there are moments having to do with "The Streak" (a run of nightly reading that lasts many years) and books. That only a minority of anecdotes involves books isn't the fatal flaw for me: it is the lack of anything interesting that is its downfall. I haven't read many daughter/father stories, but this one doesn't do much to keep it interesting. The stories told here are told in a straightforward manner but the dialogue can be quite stilted. Every chapter unfolds Something Important, a Life Lesson Learned, but the problem is that while it may be interesting and important to the author it doesn't quite reach a level that keeps it interesting and important to the reader (or at least THIS reader). What each chapter manages to exhibit is an awkward but loving father interacting with his awkward but loving daughter. "The Streak" may be the most interesting thing they've done together, and if they had been able to connect the books they were reading to everyday life maybe that would've worked. But here the books take a back seat to their sometimes awkward conversations and her awkward hindsight revelations about life learned in situations that are disconnected and sometimes too precious and precocious for my taste. Have you ever been in that awkward situation where you're a family's dinner guest, and they start regaling you with all the cute stories about their family members that they laugh about and enjoy remembering so much, and you sit there, fake smiling and fake laughing because, while they might be somewhat amusing and entertaining stories, they're really not as funny or amusing as all that, and then the hosts, encouraged by your fake enjoyment, continue with MORE stories, laughing even harder and asking you "Isn't that a great story? Wasn't that so funny? Wasn't that so cute?" and you look at your watch and you realize you still have hours and hours left until you can make a getaway, and just when you think it can't get any worse they bring out the photo albums so they can remember even MORE stories to entertain you with? Yeah, that's how the first 85 pages of this book felt like. This book is okay, but only if you like reading about someone else's somewhat interesting, but not really that interesting, life.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Raven

    I adored this book. It's as simple as that. When I taught Freshman Writing at a local university, one of the required assignments was a personal essay. This was, without fail, the hardest assignment of the semester and a challenge to teach. Alice Ozma, in my opinion, has perfected the art of the personal essay. Her tone is endearing, fun, and clear. I appreciated that I felt like this was just her normal writing--she wasn't putting on airs or trying to write something she isn't. This charming se I adored this book. It's as simple as that. When I taught Freshman Writing at a local university, one of the required assignments was a personal essay. This was, without fail, the hardest assignment of the semester and a challenge to teach. Alice Ozma, in my opinion, has perfected the art of the personal essay. Her tone is endearing, fun, and clear. I appreciated that I felt like this was just her normal writing--she wasn't putting on airs or trying to write something she isn't. This charming series of essays highlights the love of a father for his child, the devotion of that child to her father, and the role of reading in their relationship. It's one big "hurray!" for reading, reading aloud to children, and the power of the written word and I loved it. I loved it for its humor (that made me laugh out loud many times), for its tenderness (I was near tears several times), for its passion about books and childhood literacy, and for its warmth. This was a real book by a real person with a real love for books. We love reading in our house and this book just got me even more excited for the years of books ahead of us!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    Most of us will agree there's something magical about reading. It's why when a lot of us who are bibliophiles hear that reading is declining more and more each year, we are a bit saddened by this news. Many of us may wonder what we can do about it and how we can inspire the next generation to continue the love of reading we have. Alice Ozma and her father James have one idea. When Alice was in the fourth grade, the two made a vow to read together each night for 100 days. After that success and ov Most of us will agree there's something magical about reading. It's why when a lot of us who are bibliophiles hear that reading is declining more and more each year, we are a bit saddened by this news. Many of us may wonder what we can do about it and how we can inspire the next generation to continue the love of reading we have. Alice Ozma and her father James have one idea. When Alice was in the fourth grade, the two made a vow to read together each night for 100 days. After that success and over a victory plate of pancakes, the two decided to try and extend the promise, calling it The Streak (no relation to the popular song by Ray Stevens). "The Reading Promise" is a memoir of the Streak. It chronicles the books they read and some of the events that took place in their lives during the Streak. Ozma relates just a few of the memorable moments from their journey together, as well as the importance the Streak took on during its time. The story is told with affection and offers a bit of a challenge to readers--why not try an experiment like the Streak of your own? "The Reading Promise" underlines the value of books and libraries in our world today. Ozma's father is a librarian at an elementary school and one of the most memorable and heartbreaking chapters is late in the book as funding is cut for the library and her father is told to emphasize teaching the children how to use the Internet rather than reading to them and instilling in some of them a love of the printed word and page. Hopefully this book will serve as an inspiration for many of us who love to read to find a way to make sure others around us know why we love to read as much as we do and to share that love of reading with them.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    Well, two stars might be a little harsh, but I was just disappointed in how this book turned out. I LOVED the idea of it. A daughter writing about how her father read to her every night (without skipping any) from about age 9 until she left for college. I was excited because I'm one of those nerdy people who like reading "books about books", and since I have children of my own I feel very strongly about the importance of reading aloud to your children. However, there was very little about the ac Well, two stars might be a little harsh, but I was just disappointed in how this book turned out. I LOVED the idea of it. A daughter writing about how her father read to her every night (without skipping any) from about age 9 until she left for college. I was excited because I'm one of those nerdy people who like reading "books about books", and since I have children of my own I feel very strongly about the importance of reading aloud to your children. However, there was very little about the actual reading in this book. It was written more as a memoir, but the way it was written just left me disinterested. There were some interesting sections, but it just felt like the author hasn't grown up enough to really write a memoir. I wanted to hear more about the books they were reading, or about how that influenced her...or something. She writes about her disjointed family (mother moved out, father raised her as a single dad) but focuses on seemingly unimportant things while trivializing other issues that seem more pertinent. And it was more about the technicalities of NEVER missing a night of reading (got to get a few minutes in before midnight!), rather than the purpose behind the idea in the first place. But despite my personal disappointment in the book, I am a huge supporter of books and a believer in the importance of libraries - so anything that tries to promote that part of life is fine by me.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Gina

    This is one of the most heartwarming books I've ever read. As the child of an alcoholic father, I always wondered what it would be like to have a great daddy. Alice Ozma shed a little light on that for me. When she was in the 4th grade, Alice's dad decided to try to read to her for 100 nights in a row. Upon reaching that goal, both knew they didn't want the reading to stop, and so their "streak" (their words for the number of nights in a row) continued. Neither could have forseen how long the str This is one of the most heartwarming books I've ever read. As the child of an alcoholic father, I always wondered what it would be like to have a great daddy. Alice Ozma shed a little light on that for me. When she was in the 4th grade, Alice's dad decided to try to read to her for 100 nights in a row. Upon reaching that goal, both knew they didn't want the reading to stop, and so their "streak" (their words for the number of nights in a row) continued. Neither could have forseen how long the streak would last. It continued until Alice's last night at home before leaving for college. Although this is, of course, a book about books, it is also a book about love. I was blessed to have a mom who was a voracious reader, and she passed that love to me. This book very much underscores the importance of literacy to me, and how the simple act of introducing a love of knowledge and reading to children can have a long-lasting, lifetime, positive effect.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Gregandemy

    I love reading and it started in my childhood from my parent's sharing their love of books with me. I can't wait to read Ozma's story. 3/22/11: Read this book in one day. I LOVED it. (I'm a little prejudiced as I share her love of reading). I thoroughly enjoyed learning of the books she read and how they affected her life, but it was how she told her story that made the book so enjoyable. I loved reading her memories of childhood and of her relationship with her father whom she read with. It wa I love reading and it started in my childhood from my parent's sharing their love of books with me. I can't wait to read Ozma's story. 3/22/11: Read this book in one day. I LOVED it. (I'm a little prejudiced as I share her love of reading). I thoroughly enjoyed learning of the books she read and how they affected her life, but it was how she told her story that made the book so enjoyable. I loved reading her memories of childhood and of her relationship with her father whom she read with. It was an endearing, lovely book that made we want to grab a book from her list and go cuddle up with my kids.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Ciara

    a cute memoir by a young woman whose father read to her almost every night until she went away to college. when she was nine years old, they decided to try to make sure they read every day for 1000 days, which expanded to nine years. the author's father was a librarian in an elementary school, so he had a passion for children's literature & together, they read a mix of classics & newer books that he was screening for the library's collection. there are some funny stories about the lengths they w a cute memoir by a young woman whose father read to her almost every night until she went away to college. when she was nine years old, they decided to try to make sure they read every day for 1000 days, which expanded to nine years. the author's father was a librarian in an elementary school, so he had a passion for children's literature & together, they read a mix of classics & newer books that he was screening for the library's collection. there are some funny stories about the lengths they went to in order to avoid breaking "the streak," including an incident when the author was working on a play as a teenager. rehearsals went long & her father came to the theatre & took her out to the parking lot to make sure they got their reading time in. there are also some touching bits about the fact that he was a single parent, which led to them reading a surprising number of books about girls without mothers on the scene. the author manages to talk about bicycles quite a lot in the book, & without fail, every time she referred to some pedaling a bike, she spelled it "peddle". it was really distracting & illustrated the main failing of having someone read to you, as opposed to doing your own reading: trouble with homonyms. when the author left for college, she majored in english, & we are led to believe that a lifetime of being read to encouraged her to become a reader on her own, with a strong grasp of language skills, but...then we have the whole "peddled" thing. i don't know how an editor didn't catch that. there are also questions about 22-year-olds writing memoirs, & the book does meander a little bit because there's only so much to say about having been read to for nine years straight. there was an entire chapter about some confusing car accident that the author got into & it didn't really fit with the rest of the book. it seemed like the author was trying to extend the page count a little by just throwing in every halfways significant event in her life to date.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    A memoir by a young woman whose claim to distinction is that her father read aloud to her, for a minimum of ten minutes, for 3,218 consecutive days. The Reading Promise was a book I was politely interested in when I first heard of it, in the way one is when one is clearly the target audience for someone's literary efforts. I dutifully put it on my to-read list, and yet felt hardly any urge to rush out and track down a copy. Basically, I thought it would boil down to banal and obvious sentiments a A memoir by a young woman whose claim to distinction is that her father read aloud to her, for a minimum of ten minutes, for 3,218 consecutive days. The Reading Promise was a book I was politely interested in when I first heard of it, in the way one is when one is clearly the target audience for someone's literary efforts. I dutifully put it on my to-read list, and yet felt hardly any urge to rush out and track down a copy. Basically, I thought it would boil down to banal and obvious sentiments about books (they're great!) and reading aloud to children (it's so important!), and the father/daughter bond (quite special). What a nice surprise to find that there's more depth and piquancy to this book than meets the eye. Human personalities play just as big a role as books do here. At its best, The Reading Promise is as much a memoir about growing up in an unusual family as it is about being read to. Ozma's father comes across as a remarkable but in some ways difficult person, and there's enough of the bittersweet here to keep the book from being cloying, which was really what I was afraid of. Naturally I have quibbles, I always do. Here's one: the family's cats didn't need or deserve their own chapter. The list of books that the pair can recall reading is found in the back, and of course is of absorbing interest (and has surprisingly few older classics). It is surely incomplete; too bad they didn't have a joint goodreads account to keep track of it all. I hope that my son one day appreciates that I've created a record of all we've read together here (since June of 2009, anyway), but in the meantime I'm pleased enough about that for both of us, and love to gloat over the list. It grows so nicely, even though we do sometimes skip two or three nights a year.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Kathy

    This book really touched me! It brought me back to when I was a kid and my father was the one who read to me all the time and took me to the library. Books were very important to him and he was often reading as many as 7 or 8 at a time. I got my love of reading and books from him and I couldn't be more grateful! The Reading Promise is the story of a single father and his daughter who read together every night (or day, if that's how things happened to work out that day) from the time she was 9 ti This book really touched me! It brought me back to when I was a kid and my father was the one who read to me all the time and took me to the library. Books were very important to him and he was often reading as many as 7 or 8 at a time. I got my love of reading and books from him and I couldn't be more grateful! The Reading Promise is the story of a single father and his daughter who read together every night (or day, if that's how things happened to work out that day) from the time she was 9 till she left for college. They had read together before this, but at 9 is when they made their pact...The Reading Promise...The Streak...Read Hot...they had so many names for it. Nothing got in the way....not sleepovers as a teenagers, play rehearsals, proms...you name it. Even if it meant the occasional phone call reading. Their guidelines were that it had to be before midnight and at least 10 minutes. What commitment! I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and as I said earlier, it really brought me back. My dad has been gone now for 23 years, but while reading this book, he was reading right over my shoulder. Thank you, Alice Ozma!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Tammy Dotts

    http://tammydotts.wordpress.com/2011/... Once upon a time, a little girl and her father wanted to know if they could read aloud for 100 nights in a row. When they reached that milestone, they decided to keep going. Eventually, when the little girl went to college, the nightly reading stopped after 3,218 nights. The Reading Promise: My Father and the Books We Shared by Alice Ozma uses those nights of reading as the frame for an episodic memoir that covers life in the Bronzina household from when Oz http://tammydotts.wordpress.com/2011/... Once upon a time, a little girl and her father wanted to know if they could read aloud for 100 nights in a row. When they reached that milestone, they decided to keep going. Eventually, when the little girl went to college, the nightly reading stopped after 3,218 nights. The Reading Promise: My Father and the Books We Shared by Alice Ozma uses those nights of reading as the frame for an episodic memoir that covers life in the Bronzina household from when Ozma is in the third grade to present day. Her father is a elementary school librarian, and his love of literature is evident the name he gave his younger daughter. Ozma begins each chapter with a quote from a book she and her father would have read around the time of the incident that anchors the chapter: The Giver for a chapter about the death and funeral of her beloved beta fish; Charlotte’s Web for a chapter about watching spiders and summer storms on a porch; Dicey’s Song for a chapter about the awkward father-daughter conversations about a growing daughter. A reading list at the end of the book details most of the books the two read during what the referred to as “the streak.” It’s full of classic children’s books that most readers have encountered at one point or another. The episodic nature of the book is, in part, the book’s downfall. Ozma never spends enough time with pieces of her life that, in a different memoir, could serve as a centerpole. Her mother leaves the family, but it doesn’t seem to affect Ozma and her father much other than the two of them trying to figure out what would make an acceptable Thanksgiving dinner. Her older sister pops in and out of the book but doesn’t seem to be part of the family. At times, this isn’t a problem. After all, Ozma is telling the story of her relationship with her father. At others, however, the episodes rush by before their importance in Ozma’s life is clear. The Reading Promise is Ozma’s first published work, and the pacing shows that. You want to stop her as she’s writing and encourage her to put more words on paper, to spend more time with an episode. The scenes are probably vivid in her memory, and her writing is engaging so readers want to spend more time with the scenes. Unfortunately, Ozma is on to the next one far too quickly. One of the stronger points of the book is her writing style. In the beginning chapters, the voice is that of a younger child, capturing who Ozma was at the time. Sometimes, she can come across as precocious, one of the kids you only see in sitcoms, but by the end of the book, it’s clear that Ozma was an intelligent child and, although some of the dialogue may be a fantasized version of how she spoke as a child, it fits with the picture of who the author is. Readers expecting a close discussion of children’s literature and how it affected Ozma may be disappointed. The nightly reading is just a framework for stories about growing up. What does come through is her father’s love of reading and the importance both he and Ozma place on reading to children and making a place for literature in the home. Ozma ends the book with a sudden, almost academic paragraph on the need for a commitment to reading in modern life. It feels out of place; after she had done a decent job in showing the need, she doesn’t need to explain it.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Mike

    The concept of "The Streak," and anything that promotes reading to kids is great. Reading to your own kids is surely a marvelous thing. I'm glad that Alice Ozma has been able to tell this story. She seems to have turned out pretty well despite her extremely messed up childhood. However, no matter how many times she tells the reader what a great dad she had, I still don't believe her. I'm glad that she and her father found a way to connect through books. It's a shame he didn't have any other way o The concept of "The Streak," and anything that promotes reading to kids is great. Reading to your own kids is surely a marvelous thing. I'm glad that Alice Ozma has been able to tell this story. She seems to have turned out pretty well despite her extremely messed up childhood. However, no matter how many times she tells the reader what a great dad she had, I still don't believe her. I'm glad that she and her father found a way to connect through books. It's a shame he didn't have any other way of connecting. Where she sees a "superhero," I see a cranky, difficult, emotionally distant, scared, and socially inept man with a probable undiagnosed mental illness. I commend him for trying hard with his kids and for his devotion to his career. He's still not a superhero. In one chapter, James is reading to now teenaged Alice, from "Dicey's Song." Rather than being honest and just admitting that the subject matter (a girl entering puberty) is embarrassing or difficult for him, he engages in a passive aggressive ploy, inventing a bowdlerized version of the chapter that is so bizarre that Alice instantly notices something is wrong. She relates the story to the reader as being amusing, but I found it unsettling on several levels. James seems a sad figure, unable to drop his emotional barriers over even a minor embarrassment. Moreover, in the middle of an exercise designed to teach his daughter to love and respect literature, he treats the text of the book (and by extension, its author) with disrespect by censoring it. It sets a bad example and insults Alice's intelligence. For me, too much of Alice's narrative comes across as disingenuous or in denial. While she never indulges in self pity (this is not a "woe is me" memoir), she does trivialize a tragically dysfunctional family as if it is merely quirky or eccentric. Because of this tendency, I don't trust her as a narrator. It's as if she is repeating over and over, "everything is fine." Maybe she convinced herself, but she didn't convince me.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Paul Secor

    There was promise here, but the author didn't have the writing skills to bring the promise to fruition, and I sensed she didn't have the willingness to be open enough about her family to make the book come alive. There was promise here, but the author didn't have the writing skills to bring the promise to fruition, and I sensed she didn't have the willingness to be open enough about her family to make the book come alive.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

    "The Reading Promise" by Alice Ozma is the memoir of a very special activity shared by her and her father, Jim Brozina. Alice's father read to her every single night, without fail, for nine years. From the time Alice was in 4th grade until the day she left for college. They called it, " The Streak." In the memoir, Alice recounts the books they read, and the difficulties they encounter trying to keep the streak alive during nine years of reading. She also relates other difficult situations that c "The Reading Promise" by Alice Ozma is the memoir of a very special activity shared by her and her father, Jim Brozina. Alice's father read to her every single night, without fail, for nine years. From the time Alice was in 4th grade until the day she left for college. They called it, " The Streak." In the memoir, Alice recounts the books they read, and the difficulties they encounter trying to keep the streak alive during nine years of reading. She also relates other difficult situations that come to pass, such as when her mother moves into an apartment. Through it all, The Streak continues. Jim Brozina is an elementary school librarian whose highest calling and gift is reading aloud to children. After Alice leaves for college and The Streak ends, a disturbing trends begins in his district's libraries. He is told he can no longer read aloud to his students. Computers are moved in and books are actually boxed up and stored in the basement. Jim Brozina does not sit idly by and watch it happen, he fights for the children and the library, he researches the value of reading aloud in the classroom and meets with school officials to try to persuade them to reinstate reading in the library. Unfortunately, his efforts are ignored and school politics prevail. Eventually, after Brozina retires, the libraries are totally phased out and turned into nothing more than computer labs. Retirement finds Jim active, and not willing to sit in a rocking chair passively watching the world go by. Eventually, he begins reading to senior citizens in a nursing facility, (yes, he reads them picture books) and his reading program becomes extremely popular. The memoir ends with Brozina planning on running for the school board, hoping to be able to effect change from within the system. We can only hope he succeeds. At the end of the book is a comprehensive list of the dozens of books the Brozina's read during The Streak.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Tita

    Cute concept, poorly written. It's a memoir. I was expecting an account of childhood stories/books, etc. The author's life isn't interesting enough for me to get invested. The most important event in her life is that she and her father were so devoted to their reading together, that their "reading promise" spanned years. Yes, I find that a huge accomplishment, to set out to reach a long term goal and meet it. However, do I feel it's enough to carry an entire book? Not so much. I find the writing Cute concept, poorly written. It's a memoir. I was expecting an account of childhood stories/books, etc. The author's life isn't interesting enough for me to get invested. The most important event in her life is that she and her father were so devoted to their reading together, that their "reading promise" spanned years. Yes, I find that a huge accomplishment, to set out to reach a long term goal and meet it. However, do I feel it's enough to carry an entire book? Not so much. I find the writing mediocre at best, and the story clunky. I felt like the author was looking back at her childhood and laughing at herself and her family saying, "look how eccentric my father is, and how nerdy I was," and there's nothing really extraordinary about that. The storytelling is sophomoric and the voice is extremely juvenile. It reminds me of how I wrote when I was 14. I found the first half of the book almost unbearable and the second half was a tiny bit better, so I was able to hurry up finish (maybe the writing matured as the character did in the story?). The best takeaway from this book, is that I started thinking about my favorite elementary teachers who read to us daily, and how much I love them for that. I think about how those teachers encouraged us and enabled my thirst for reading. They introduced me to so many authors and series that I fell in love with. I appreciate the "reading" bond between the author and her father (aside from that, there doesn't seem to be much of a typical father/daughter bond), and I love the concept of their reading streak, the writing of this story is just poorly executed.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Claire

    One of my favorite books this year. Alice Ozma and her dad, Jim Brozina decide that Jim will read to Alice (Kristen at this point, don't be confused- all becomes clear) each night-no matter what. This becomes The Streak and is unbroken for at least nine years. Proms, sleep-aways, Hell, and high water all notwithstanding. That is a premise of the book, the joy is in the unmitigated love with which Alice relates the years of The Streak, selecting moments in time to share with us. Utterly charming, One of my favorite books this year. Alice Ozma and her dad, Jim Brozina decide that Jim will read to Alice (Kristen at this point, don't be confused- all becomes clear) each night-no matter what. This becomes The Streak and is unbroken for at least nine years. Proms, sleep-aways, Hell, and high water all notwithstanding. That is a premise of the book, the joy is in the unmitigated love with which Alice relates the years of The Streak, selecting moments in time to share with us. Utterly charming, and at times completely hilarious (I cannot remember reading anything that caused me to laugh so uncontrollably) this is a testament, a love letter to a devoted Dad that warms our hearts and inspires us. Side notes for those who have read the book: I read somewhere that Jim had written an article about this Streak, so I Googled it. No dice on the article but other interesting info. Like the board notes from the School Board meeting that tendered Jim's retirement. Mr. Flickinger is on the school board! Notes show that hockey, soccer and even golf are funded... all I can say- injurious insult.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Emily Rosenbaum

    From my book review blog: My three-year-old, Lilah, promises me several times a day, “I’ll always be your baby.” I believe her. I’ve read Love You Forever; I know that when she’s 37 I’ll still be crawling across the floor to her at night. My five-year-old, Benjamin, recently told me that, of course, I’d be able to take care of his kids when he grows up. After all, we’ll be living in the same house. I believe him, too; he will take pity on me in my dotage and bring me into his home. That kid walk From my book review blog: My three-year-old, Lilah, promises me several times a day, “I’ll always be your baby.” I believe her. I’ve read Love You Forever; I know that when she’s 37 I’ll still be crawling across the floor to her at night. My five-year-old, Benjamin, recently told me that, of course, I’d be able to take care of his kids when he grows up. After all, we’ll be living in the same house. I believe him, too; he will take pity on me in my dotage and bring me into his home. That kid walks with his heart first. I’m reluctant to let them grow up and away from me, but I know it’ll happen and I appreciate their sweet reassurances. But it wasn’t until I read the opening chapters of The Reading Promise, by Alice Ozma, that I realized the most heartrending truth of all: someday, maybe someday soon, they will stop allowing me to read to them. Here was the passage that made me go cold, right there on page 3: “My sister was in fourth grade when she said she no longer wanted my father to read to her. It seemed childish to her, especially since she was already reading novels on her own.” I read this passage while sitting on seven-year-old Zachary’s bed. He was next to me, reading The 39 Clues, his latest series. He spends hours a day alone reading these books if he can, but every night after I’ve read to the other two kids, I read him a chapter from wherever he is in the book. Then I go get whichever book I’m reading and sit next to him on his bed, reading side-by-side. We need this time together desperately. Zachary is a very cerebral child (in case you missed that). I am a very cerebral adult (in case you missed that, too). We’re not snuggly, cuddly folks. In fact, if I put my arm around him while I’m reading, he always moves away in a couple of minutes. But the reading together? That brings us together, connects us. I read to all three children, and they’re all very into books, but it’s core to my relationship with my eldest. Books are what we do. So, when I read those sentences on page three, I almost stopped breathing. Then I interrupted his reading – a sin of the highest form. “You’ll always let me read to you, right?” “Of course,” he said, not looking up from his book. Over the next week, I read about Alice Ozma – named for two of her school-librarian father’s favorite characters – and her dad, who promised each other they’d read together every night until she went to college. I read about her dad’s discomfort with physical affection and how for years the only time they touched was during reading. I read about his commitment to her, and how he embarrassed her, and how dedicated he was. It’s a beautifully simple, elegantly crafted book, and it would be humiliating to me as a writer that Ozma can write like that at twenty-two if I didn’t admire her so much. I finished the book tonight, sitting next to Zachary on his bed. As he read his 39 Clues, he tilted his head and brought it to rest on my shoulder, the first time he has ever done this. For tonight, and I hope for many more years to come, we have books to bring us together.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    (3.5) Starting when she was nine and continuing until she left for college, Alice Ozma’s father read aloud to her every night. Even if it was just for 10 minutes, even if it had to be fit in over the phone or in the middle of a play rehearsal, they never missed a night. The Streak ultimately lasted over 3,000 consecutive days, keeping Alice and her father close even after her mother left them and her older sister set off for college. The chronological chapters zoom in a few months or half a year (3.5) Starting when she was nine and continuing until she left for college, Alice Ozma’s father read aloud to her every night. Even if it was just for 10 minutes, even if it had to be fit in over the phone or in the middle of a play rehearsal, they never missed a night. The Streak ultimately lasted over 3,000 consecutive days, keeping Alice and her father close even after her mother left them and her older sister set off for college. The chronological chapters zoom in a few months or half a year each time to show the changes the years brought. We see Alice hosting a funeral for her pet fish; realizing one Thanksgiving that her mother has gone for good; ‘helping’ her father, a school librarian, advertise the book fair; decorating a Christmas tree; despairing over a C in English; acting as her father’s wingman for dating; getting in her first car accident; and going to the prom. There’s sometimes too much focus on the family quirks, like her temporary fear of JFK’s corpse and her father’s reluctance to be touched. Compared to a lot of bibliomemoirs, there are not very many mentions of the specific books they were reading – they didn’t keep a thorough list, although a partial one is reconstructed at the back. I was also surprised that her dad did all the reading, rather than them swapping back and forth. However, you get a clear sense of how important books were to this family, and of how her father passed on his love of books – and proved the love he otherwise struggled to show – through their ritual. The last few chapters are a defense of libraries and of the place for reading aloud in everyday life.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Darlene

    I really enjoyed reading this book. The author, Alice Ozma, wrote this book describing all of the nights she spent listening to her father read to her from books that they chose together.. everything from The Wizard of Oz by Frank Baum to Charlottes' Web by E.B. White to the ever popular Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. Ms. Ozma and her father started reading every night together when she was in 4th grade and their 'Streak' continued until the night before she left for college. Not only was I really enjoyed reading this book. The author, Alice Ozma, wrote this book describing all of the nights she spent listening to her father read to her from books that they chose together.. everything from The Wizard of Oz by Frank Baum to Charlottes' Web by E.B. White to the ever popular Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. Ms. Ozma and her father started reading every night together when she was in 4th grade and their 'Streak' continued until the night before she left for college. Not only was this an accounting of all the books they read together and loved but it also was an honest look at the way their relationship grew and changed over the years. As a mother who spent many, many nights reading to my OWN children, I found this book to be a funny and touching look at one of the most enjoyable and rewarding things a parent can do with their children.In addition, this was a wonderful look at a popular bedtime ritual through the eyes of a child.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Lanae Schaal

    I picked this book up at the airport to distract me during my four hour layover. It served that purpose quite well. The title of the book is misleading though not specious. The author clearly has an ardor for books and feels that they were a catalyst to the development of the strong bond that she and her father share. We are introduced to the books through opening chapter quotes that allude to the content of that section. However, the focus of the chapters is to retell some important transition I picked this book up at the airport to distract me during my four hour layover. It served that purpose quite well. The title of the book is misleading though not specious. The author clearly has an ardor for books and feels that they were a catalyst to the development of the strong bond that she and her father share. We are introduced to the books through opening chapter quotes that allude to the content of that section. However, the focus of the chapters is to retell some important transition stage in the girl or father's life as she grew up. Despite not taking me on a journey through a list of wonderful books, the story offered me a candid view of the relationship between this single father and daughter. It reminded me of the give and take that must occur for true love to flourish.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Diana

    I absolutely loved this book! Alice and her dad make a commitment to read together every night. The Streak runs for years until Alice goes to college. While initially I thought there would be more discussion on the books read, the basis of this book was the relationship between Alice and her dad and the incidental experiences during the streak. Much of the story can illustrate the bond between a single parent and their child. It made the commitment completely understandable. With Alice's dad wor I absolutely loved this book! Alice and her dad make a commitment to read together every night. The Streak runs for years until Alice goes to college. While initially I thought there would be more discussion on the books read, the basis of this book was the relationship between Alice and her dad and the incidental experiences during the streak. Much of the story can illustrate the bond between a single parent and their child. It made the commitment completely understandable. With Alice's dad working as a highly dedicated school librarian there were quotes that really resonated with me. "He spent his own money and countless hours at yard sales collecting books and decorations to make the library feel like a comforting, inviting place to read..." I work in a school library and I can relate to this. I feel privileged to have shared Alice and her father's story.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Teagan E

    I have to agree with another reviewer's words, "I loved the concept but disliked the book." The beginning had me hooked and the end was touching and inspiring, but I struggled to keep reading through the middle. I'm not sure yet why, but I think it has something to do with liking the story but not liking the writing. There was this unshakable feeling that the author was exaggerating or elaborating but trying to pass it off as 100% nonfiction; I'm not usually a prude when it comes t blending fact I have to agree with another reviewer's words, "I loved the concept but disliked the book." The beginning had me hooked and the end was touching and inspiring, but I struggled to keep reading through the middle. I'm not sure yet why, but I think it has something to do with liking the story but not liking the writing. There was this unshakable feeling that the author was exaggerating or elaborating but trying to pass it off as 100% nonfiction; I'm not usually a prude when it comes t blending fact and fiction but just had trouble settling in on this one. "Contrived" might be the adjective I'm looking for. However, a lot of people really seemed to enjoy the experience of reading this book, and the story as a piece of human interest is wonderful. I think I can sum up my feelings best by saying I would have liked to just read her newspaper article instead of the whole book.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Hamsini

    Ever since reading '84, Charing cross' last year I've been looking for more 'books about books'. I hit jackpot with this one. Absolutely loved the underlying themes of parental love, single parenting, a voracious love and a healthy appetite for books and all things literature. I did wish some places had slightly tighter editing but I could not but fall in love with the structure and the not-quite mature author writing. Ever since reading '84, Charing cross' last year I've been looking for more 'books about books'. I hit jackpot with this one. Absolutely loved the underlying themes of parental love, single parenting, a voracious love and a healthy appetite for books and all things literature. I did wish some places had slightly tighter editing but I could not but fall in love with the structure and the not-quite mature author writing.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Lesley

    Great message glad to see that this book is touching many lives. We should all be so lucky as to have a school librarian, teacher, parentso committed to reading to children.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Janie

    Goodreads two-star rating equals "It was OK" and not as negative as most two-star ratings. Years ago, I would have gobbled this book up, I think. But now, twelve years after homeschooling four kids for twenty years, I've just moved on down the road. Younger, especially homeschooling, mothers will find this book somewhat encouraging, I think. You can bank on these two quotes in the Foreword from the author's father: "If you have been read to as a child, you are much more likely to read to your own Goodreads two-star rating equals "It was OK" and not as negative as most two-star ratings. Years ago, I would have gobbled this book up, I think. But now, twelve years after homeschooling four kids for twenty years, I've just moved on down the road. Younger, especially homeschooling, mothers will find this book somewhat encouraging, I think. You can bank on these two quotes in the Foreword from the author's father: "If you have been read to as a child, you are much more likely to read to your own children when they come along." "The greatest gift you can bestow upon your children is your time and undivided attention. . . .No one will ever say, no matter how good a parent he or she was,'I think I spent too much time with my children when they were young.'"

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kasey Hill

    So very good and important. Anyone who loves books, literature and the written word should read this book. Loved the line 'even better than holding, touching, smelling, and hugging new books is taking them home and reading them in your own bed, under your own covers, with your own lamp shining beside you' Easy read. Reminds us why reading is important and needs to be kept alive. So very good and important. Anyone who loves books, literature and the written word should read this book. Loved the line 'even better than holding, touching, smelling, and hugging new books is taking them home and reading them in your own bed, under your own covers, with your own lamp shining beside you' Easy read. Reminds us why reading is important and needs to be kept alive.

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