When Alice Ozma and her father decided to read together for at least 10 minutes every night, neither of them thought “the streak” would last for more than eight years.
“I suggested to my father that we aim for one hundred consecutive nights of reading,” writes Ozma in the book “The Reading Promise: My Father and the Books We Shared,” “and he agreed to the challenge.”
She was in fourth grade at the time and she remembered that when her older sister was the same age she no longer wanted her father to read to her.
She writes, “It seemed childish to her, especially since she was already reading novels on her own. But it wasn’t so easy for my father. He was an elementary school librarian, and reading to children was what he liked to do best. And maybe next to being a father, it’s also what he does best. His soothing voice and rehearsed facial expressions have won over thousands of children throughout his career. They won me over, too, but I was already on his side.”
The amazing nighttime reading streak completed by Alice and her father has resulted in the book. After she and her dad completed the 100-night challenge, they decided to celebrate by having breakfast the next morning at Flick’s Café. The two of them proudly tell the owner of their accomplishment.
‘The Reading Promise: My Father and the Books We Shared’
Author: Alice Ozma
Published by: Grand Central Publishing, 279 pages
How much: $24.99
What: Reading by Alice Ozma
Where: Schenectady County Public Library
When: 10:30 a.m., Saturday, March 31.
“Had it been hard? No, not particularly. We were already in the habit of reading almost every night, as we always had, so it hadn’t been much of an adjustment. Really, we decided, even if we hadn’t been trying to keep a streak, we would have missed only six or seven of those nights. Maybe even less.”
Beyond the goal
When Flick asked, “What happens next?” Alice and her dad realize they hadn’t thought much about what to do now that they had reached their goal.
“I have been giving this a lot of consideration,” she tells Flick, “and it is only logical for us to go for a thousand nights.”
Her father complains that a lot can happen in one thousand nights. “That’s years, you know. You’re only nine now. How old will you be then? Who knows what our lives will be like?”
A lot does happen to Alice and her dad. Some of the events are humorous and typical of an adolescent girl growing up with a loving and devoted dad, and some of it is painful, such as when she writes about the dissolution of her parents’ marriage.
Throughout all the good and the bad times though, she and her dad share their love of reading every night, right up to the day she moves away to attend college.
The book works on many levels. I enjoyed the humor, and Alice Ozma has a nice way of bringing a scene to life with expert dialogue. She also describes her family, which is flawed in many ways — like all our families — and she shows the love they have for each other.
What I enjoyed the most about the book was the obvious love between Alice and her dad and their shared love for literature.
“The streak was about spending time together and taking the stress out of a hectic day and not adding more to it. We were supposed to sit together and appreciate just being in the same room, working our way through a piece of literature. It wouldn’t be the same after I left for college.”
This book is also a reminder of how special books are, and how special librarians like Alice’s father are. He spent a career in education reading books and introducing the magic and the wonder of literature to his students.
If you enjoy books, you’ll love “The Reading Promise,” and if you have a young child, it’s never too late to begin a streak of your own.
As Alice Ozma writes, “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.”
Power of printed word
But the book is also a promise to remember the power of the printed word and to cherish it and protect it at all costs.
At 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, Ozma will read from and discuss her book in the McChesney Room at the Schenectady County Public Library. Registration is recommended by calling 388-4511, and doors open at 10 a.m.
A book sale and signing will be conducted by The Open Door Bookstore following the program.