Friday, November 11, 2011

The Reading Promise by Alice Ozma

The Reading Promise: My Father and the Books We Shared by Alice Ozma was one of the most delightful non-fiction books I've read in a long while. The book is really a celebration of a very special relationship forged between a dad and his daughter over the 3,218 days straight that he read at least ten minutes with his daughter. There is one very memorable chapter about a time when they came perilously close to breaking their streak as the clock approached midnight but Dad came through (not without a bit of daughterly embarrassment at the time).

The author's father was a popular school librarian passionate about reading books to children. This love naturally spilled over into his homelife. And at age 8, they decided they would first try to read 100 nights in a row. When that goal was reached, they just kept going all the way until the eve of the daughter's start to college.  This process was a constant, predictable, secure tradition that helped anchor a young lady whose parents split up. Sadly her mother moved out and the mystery of that is really only hinted at later in the book. What struck me was that while this would normally be an incredibly tragic event, the daughter came through childhood with quite a head on her shoulders. Largely due, I am sure, to the influence of the connection she had with her father through books.

Her father was not a demonstrative man and the author mentions that sitting next to her dad during reading time was about the only physical contact they had--he wasn't really a hugger or an affectionate dad but he could READ!  He would practice and rehearse before reading each evening so that voices and inflection were perfect.  He would sometimes do some selective "editing" as he read (a very great benefit of reading aloud!).  Through books they shared a very special bond. The author's olders sister wasn't interested in the reading promise so this was something unique to just Alice and her father.

Literature even had a hand in the origin of her name (Alice Ozma is actually only part of the author's name given at birth). She shares the background on her name and how she came to adopt part of it as her identity.

The Reading Promise served as a daily anchor that connected a young girl throughout adolescence to the heart of her father.  What an incredible legacy that anyone on the planet could replicate.  At the back of the book is a sample "Reading Promise" agreement that a parent and child can fill out.  The author also includes a list of the books she and her father read--there are a lot of great suggestions on that list.

I highly recommend this book to any teacher, parent or librarian. It will change the way you think about reading!  And your promise to read to a child just may change their life forever. Read the first chapter today. 

Go make your own Reading Promise,

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