Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Reading Promise by Alice Ozma

When she was in the fourth grade, Alice Ozma and her father challenged themselves. Her father, a school librarian, read aloud to her almost every night. The challenge was for him to read to her every night for 100 nights. They called it the Streak, but when the 100 days ended they were not ready to quit. The Streak ended on the day Alice left for college, after 3,218 straight days of her father reading to her.

In The Reading Promise, Ozma talks about the Streak, her relationship with her father, and her love of reading. I was somewhat disappointed because the books that they read are not very prominent in the story. That criticism aside, it was an enjoyable journey with her from fourth grade to adulthood. As a public librarian, it was a pleasure to read a book celebrating books and reading.

The foreword written by her father notes, “In 1985, the Commission on Reading, funded by the U.S. Department of Education, declared, ‘The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children.’” At the end of the book, Alice notes, “We called it The Reading Streak, but it was really more of a promise. A promise to each other, a promise to ourselves. …[i]t was a promise to the world: a promise to remember the power of the printed word, to take time to cherish it, to protect it at all costs.” The last page of the narrative is followed by a “Reading Promise” that the reader can make.

I didn’t fully trust Alice Ozma as a narrator; after all, 22 is a pretty young age at which to be writing a memoir. She clearly idolizes her father but harbors feelings of blame and resentment toward her mother. But Ozma does capture a loving relationship between a father and a daughter and their shared love of reading. I recommend The Reading Promise to anyone with a passion for reading.

Speaking of a love of reading, you are invited to join the Galesburg Public Library or another participating area library in celebrating reading with this year’s Big Read of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. Find out more at http://galesburglibrary.org/bigread2013.html.

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