Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Reading Promise by Alice Ozma

   Alice and her father, Jim, both share an intense love and appreciation for books.  Jim is a school librarian and Alice is a nine year-old with a big imagination when they complete their first reading streak.  The challenge was that Jim had to read aloud to Alice for at least ten minutes a day for 100 consecutive days.  When "the streak" is completed, both decide that 100 days of reading was hardly a challenge at all , so why not try for 1000 days?  Neither Alice nor her father had any idea that this tradition would continue for almost 9 years - until Alice would leave home for college.

   This is a really sweet story.  This book is about much more than a family tradition - it chronicles her relationship with her father and how they managed to stay connected through their commitment to reading together.  They even read together when they were in an argument and otherwise not on speaking terms, which is pretty remarkable for a teenage girl.  Considering that Jim is an elementary school librarian, Alice was probably predestined to become a reader (and writer).  Much of The Reading Promise is about Jim's career as a librarian, which I found to be particularly interesting since I am currently in Library Science school.  Jim is adamant that young children need to be read to, as it improves their development and skills, and makes them more likely to read on their own.  In a world where it seems like reading is being phased out of schools, or at least less emphasized, The Reading Promise serves as a wonderful reminder of what a difference books make in our level of education.

   What I did not like about this book was Alice's over-exaggerated and often cheesy description of her father.  I get that she admires him and appreciates what he did for her, but she was sometimes a bit overzealous in referring to him as a superhero, and emphasizing that he is the most unique man in the world and the best father ever. Sometimes I felt like the book was her way of buttering him up before asking for a new car or something.

   Overall, though, I enjoyed this book.  We see so many stories about young girls and their relationships with their mothers, but Alice's story is about her father who raised her as a single dad and remained dedicated to his children - dedicated enough to read to his daughter every single day for 3218 days.  While my dad didn't read to me every night for 9 years, as a child, I remember bringing stacks of picture books to him, and he would read to me until my little heart was content.  I am grateful for that, because I do believe that played  a big role in the development of my love for literature.  So I did feel quite nostalgic while reading this memoir, and it made me feel like giving my dad a hug.

   The Reading Promise is a great reminder of why we need books in our lives (especially children), and that you're never too old to be read to.  Just ask my husband.  He still loves for me to read to him.  And look at the popularity of audio books.  It just proves that storytelling is still one of the most important aspects of language and communication that we have, and whether you're a small child or an adult, everybody likes to hear a good story.