Reflections: The Reading Promise

Title/Author:  The Reading Promise:  My Father and the Books We Shared by Alice Ozma

Genre:  Memoirs, Reading and Books

Published:  May 3rd, 2011 by Grand Central Publishing

Hardcover, 279 pages

How I Got This Book:  Checked it out from the Library

Why I Picked It Up?:  I first saw a little blip about this book in a magazine, and I remember cutting out the review and sticking it on my dresser so that I would remember to add it to my list of books to read because it just sounded so magical.  =)

Book Jacket Blurb:  “When Alice was in fourth grade, she and her father–a beloved elementary school librarian–made a promise to read aloud together for 100 consecutive nights.  Upon reaching their goal, they celebrated over pancakes, but it was clear that neither wanted to let go of what had become their reading ritual.  They decided to continue what they came to call “The Streak” for as long as they possibly could.

From L. Frank Baum to Dickens to J.K. Rowling to Shakespeare, Alice’s father read to her every  night without fail until the day she entered college, a remarkable eight years later.  in this deeply affecting memoir, Alice tells the story of her relationship with the extraordinary man who raised her–from his steadying hand on the back of her wobbly bike to his one-man crusade to keep reading in schools–through a series of deftly wirtten, often hilarious vignettes about the words they shared and the spaces in between.  In her debut work, Alice poignantly celebrates the unbreakable parent-child bond, the books she and her father treasured, and the life lessons learned along the way.”

Reflections:

“What greater gift to your descendents yet unborn than the love of books and reading?”
-Foward, Jim Brozina (Alice’s Dad)

First of all, I just have to mention this cover, which is absolutely beautiful and completely represents the story that unfolds within the book’s pages.  Stunning, captivating, and mouth-watering for a book-lover such as I.

As this is a memoir, I have chosen to “reflect” rather than “review” simply because this book has really hit home with me personally and given me oh so many ideas and thoughts and feelings.  Gah, I just love a book like this.  With that said, here we go!

I have to say, the idea of a continuous reading streak is one that is so incredibly appealing to me, because reading is such a powerful thing, especially between a parent and a child.  Even though children are not anywhere close to being in the picture for me yet, I am reading this memoir and thinking about all of the adventures my husband and I can take with our children during reading time at night.  I am already making lists in my mind of the books I want to share with my children.

Alice and her father James started with a 100-night streak.  When they hit that mark, they went out and celebrated at the local breakfast cafe, and tried to explain to the owner what a feat they had just accomplished.  And when they announced their new goal–1,000 nights in a row–the owner smiled and wished them luck, but he did not know or understand exactly what that goal meant.  1000 nights in a row of reading aloud.  1000?!  That’s almost three straight years!  What a beautiful and magical goal they set for themselves.

“What we were doing was beautiful, of course, but it was difficult.”–pg. 10
How do you explain to someone who does not share the same love of reading you have how incredibly powerful and mind-numbing that goal is?  At least 10 minutes a day (mostly at night, but sometimes they did have to read in the morning if they knew their nighttime would be busy) of reading outloud, together.  Think of your own busy lives–could you really see yourself being able to do this?  I honestly don’t know.  But I would love to try.
James Brozina is an elementary school librarian who shares his love of reading with all of his students.  Reading this memoir has once again pushed me to think about becoming an elementary school librarian.  I have witnessed children (especially boys) lose their love of reading somewhere around the age of 10 because reading becomes “uncool.”  Whoever started this rumor is slowly ruining the world, I think, because that is the furthest thing from the truth I have ever heard.  It is disheartening to me to hear elementary/middle school age boys tell me that they hide their love of reading so that the other boys at school won’t make fun of him….SERIOUSLY KIDS?
This is why I want to be a librarian–not only because I just love walking in to a big room full of books, because I totally do love that–but also because I want to help instill a love of reading in people.  I want to share my passion for the written word with everyone I meet.  And I think that instilling has to happen young–with children.  Which is why I love and respect librarians, and why I want to be one myself–because their sole job is to help people find things to read!
Alice tells us the moments form her childhood that she remembers learning distinct lessons about family, about love, about life, and about reading.  Living in a home with fighting/divorcing parents, a much-older sister who leaves for college and to travel the world when she is still a child, and a father who is trying to make ends meet on a school librarian’s salary, Alice learns and shares with us a lot about life.  Yet she also shares with us how powerful The Reading Streak was–and still is–in her life.
Some stories will make you laugh.  Others will make you cry.  But these stories will melt your heart, and they will make you feellike you know them–like Alice and “Jim” are your best friends, your family even.  To see their relationship appeals to my Family Studies background, too.  To see how they relate to each other, how much they depend on each other, father and daughter, for all practical purposes a two-person family.  To see their lives meld into one theme–reading, and a love of the written word.The memoirs in this book take you past when the streak ends (which was her college move-in day after 3,218 consecutive nights).  Because, in actuality, the streak itself is not the real purpose of writing this book (although it is a huge and wonderful feat in itself).  The last couple of chapters deal with a subject that is so serious and so appalling to a future librarian and a lover of books–THE ELIMINATION OF READING IN A SCHOOL LIBRARY.Her father fought with the principles at his school, but to no avail, they prohibited him from reading to his classes in the library, forcing him instead to educate his students on the importance of the internet.  Eventually, they got rid of the majority of the books, and finally, after he [was forced to] retire, got rid of all of the books.  No books in the library?!  So now he is fighting for reading in schools while finding other ways to share his passion for reading, by reading to nursing homes and preschools.

That is what the reading promise is all about.  A promise to keep reading, no matter what.  A promise to share your love of reading with others, no matter what.  A promise to read to your children, and with your children, no matter what.  A promise to support the love of reading in your community, no matter what.

My Bookshelf Rating:

A Fourth Shelf Book!

The rating itself would be more of a 4.5.  This book is beautiful, and quirky, and enjoyable.  It is for those who love books and love reading.  It teaches and inspires readers to take a part in the Reading Promise and spread a love of reading with those people who surround them.  Go and read it, now.  You won’t regret it.  =)

Love and super long reading lists,
Jennifer

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7 thoughts on “Reflections: The Reading Promise

  1. Paige Nguyen says:

    I don't even know where to start. I guess first of all, I also read this book and fell head over heals for it. It touched my heart in so many ways, it's almost unexplainable. I became a third grade teacher much for the same reasons that you want to be a school librarian. I've since found out that I really hate public schools and am now pursuing a masters in library science to work at a library (not a school library). I also want to help kids (and people of all ages)to find books that they can fall in love with. I feel like it's a mission. I fortunately worked in a grade where books weren't uncool yet since they were just starting to read chapter books for the first time, but I did struggle with a few students who hated to read because it was hard for them. It broke my heart. When reading this book I totally started making lists for my future children too lol. My children may end up being the most read children in the world! Thanks for this reflection as it helped me find a kindred spirit 🙂

  2. vikk simmons says:

    I'm so happy to have found your blog and this post through this week's meme. I had not heard of this book and I'm definitely going to pick it up right away. Reading through I kept thinking of One Thousand and One Arabian Nights, one of my favorite books as a child. Thank you so much.

  3. Jennifer @ A Librarians Library says:

    Oh thank you! This is just one of those books that sticks with you simply because it is about the power of reading, and just how important it is to keep the love of reading alive! And I cannot wait for reading nights (though it'll probably be….7 years HAHA). I swear my children will LOVE reading 😉

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