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The Reading Promise: My Father and the Books We Shared Hardcover – May 3, 2011

4.2 out of 5 stars 93 customer reviews

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When Alice Ozma was in 4th grade, she and her father decided to see if he could read aloud to her for 100 consecutive nights. On the hundreth night, they shared pancakes to celebrate, but it soon became evident that neither wanted to let go of their storytelling ritual. So they decided to continue what they called "The Streak." Alice's father read aloud to her every night without fail until the day she left for college.

Alice approaches her book as a series of vignettes about her relationship with her father and the life lessons learned from the books he read to her.

Books included in the Streak were: Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, the Oz books by L. Frank Baum, Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, and Shakespeare's plays.

A Note from the Author

James Frey

My dad thinks you should buy my book.

And that's not because he's read it. He hasn't, and he never will. I told him it was too mushy. At first, he protested.

"Lovie!" he shrieked, "Not even on my death bed?"

I agreed to let him give it a quick skim if he was terminal, and we dropped the subject. Now he's decided he didn't want to read it anyway. He thinks he'd remember everything differently than I do, which is probably true. But he still thinks you should buy my book.

"There are no car chases, no murders, no romance, people are going to go right off to sleep. Nobody cares about that," he thought when we first discussed the idea of a book, as he explained to a local newspaper. "I didn't know that the subject would interest people, but I have 100 percent faith that (she) can sell a refrigerator to an Eskimo. If she's writing it, I figured somebody's going to want to read it."

He has the utmost confidence in me, and he likes to share it with anyone he meets. When I spoke to a reporter about setting up an interview recently, she'd already spoken to my father. She answered her phone with a cheery, "Alice! Hi! It's so nice to hear from you. Your father told me all about your PSAT scores! Congratulations!"

I took that test six years ago. My father never misses an opportunity to wallow in my achievements. But he also raised me to have unbelievable confidence in myself. I was five years old when the phone rang one Sunday morning, and, upon hanging it up, my father said, "That was the Phillies. Everyone called out sick today. Can you fill in for center-fielder?"

I had absolute no talent for sports whatsoever, so I was a little confused.

"Why do they want me?" I asked, thoughtfully chewing my French toast.

"They saw you at the game last week and thought you looked pretty good. Should we go into the backyard and practice?"

That may be the morning my father first realized how much I would one day dread high-school gym class. As he described it, I stood as still as a tree, a huge grin on my face, letting balls bounce off of my lifeless body and then lifting my arm futilely a few seconds later to cover my face. After about fifteen minutes of this, just as he was about to call it quits to prevent severe bruising, I took my cap off, nodded my head, and gave him a serious look.

"Okay," I said, "I think I'm ready."

I don't have quite this confidence now, as much as it might prove useful. The idea of strangers reading my book still makes my stomach turn. I don't mind if you read it. But my father, on the other hand… well, he thinks you'll love it. Even though he's never read it, and probably never will, he's sure it's perfect.

"It's about books, and families, and growing up," he often says, to our waiter, or my mailman, or the family sitting next to us, just trying to enjoy the planetarium. "Who can't relate to at least one of those things? And," he whispers, as people near us begin to stare, "I bet it's doggone well-written."

For a moment, I think that this, a full-length book I wrote with my own mind and hands, might finally be the thing that eclipses my past achievements, in his mind. We might be able to put the PSATs behind us. I even think, for a moment, that I might now be judged by some normal, unbiased standard. Then he sighs, and stretches his arms, and smiles.

"Did you know my daughter won the award for best debater in sixth grade?" he begins.

-- Alice Ozma

From Publishers Weekly

Named for two literary characters ("Alice" from Lewis Carroll and "Ozma" from L. Frank Baum), the author is the daughter of a Philadelphia-area elementary school librarian. Father and daughter embarked on a streak of reading-out-loud sessions every night before bed as Ozma was growing up. At first they decided on 100 nights straight of reading before bed—a minimum 10 minutes, before midnight, every night, no exceptions—then it stretched to 1,000, and soon enough the author was headed to college and they had spent eight years straight reading before bedtime, from Oz stories to Shakespeare. Reading with her father offered a comforting continuity in the midst of her mother's disquieting move away from the family, her older sister's absence as a foreign exchange student, and the parsimoniousness of her single father. Ozma's account percolates chronologically through her adolescence, as father and daughter persevered in their streak of nightly reading despite occasional inconveniences such as coming home late, sleepovers (they read over the phone), and a rare case of the father's laryngitis. Ozma's work is humorous, generous, and warmly felt, and with a terrific reading list included, there is no better argument for the benefits of reading to a child than this rich, imaginative work. (May)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing; 1 edition (May 3, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0446583774
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446583770
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (93 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #320,209 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Alice Ozma, a recent Rowan University graduate, currently lives in the Rittenhouse Square area of Philadelphia, PA. She is passionate about literature, education, and working with children.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Alice Ozma's memoir, The Reading Promise, had my attention from just the brief snyopis I happened upon months ago. Alice's father, an elementary school librarian (which helps explain how the reading promise was even possible) and Alice decide to challenge themselves to read each night for 100 consecutive days. Once the hundred day challenge is complete, Alice and her dad decide to take it a step further and try to read for 1,000 nights without a break. And, upon completing that challenge, the two continue The Streak (as it is called) until Alice leaves for college nine years later.
While I wish that more of this book would have been about the books that were read, it is really more a memoir of Alice's childhood and a tribute to reading aloud and its importance. Alice's father, Jim Brozina, writes a forward for his daughter full bits I flagged to read and re-read later.

I do read to my daughters each night, yet I will admit that I have skipped some nights because it is too late when we get home from something, or someone is sick, or (and this I feel bad about) we have had some behavior issues and taking bedtime reading away really hits 'em where it hurts. I have also not practiced my reading ahead of time which makes me feel like a slacker compared to Brozina who read ahead each night before reading aloud to Alice.

While this book is a memoir, I would also consider it a tribute to Jim Brozina and his dedication to his daughter. Sadly, Brozina retired before he was ready when the schools he served chose to believe that reading aloud to children was unimportant and unnecesary. Instead of igniting a passion in children for reading, Brozina was supposed to teach computers, and as this book was published, Brozina is now looking to being elected to the school board.
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Format: Hardcover
"You may have tangible wealth untold; Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold. Richer than I you can never be -- I had a Mother who read to me." Strickland Gilliand

I have so much love for this book. As a librarian AND a parent, I know reading aloud is so important in developing a child's love of reading, but more importantly, in developing a CHILD. In an amazing feat, Alice Ozma (love the story behind the name, btw) and her dad read together every day for over 3,000 days- no exceptions. I orginally thought this book would have been about the books that they read during their "streak", but it is actually about the life that they lived during that time, and that's what makes it so enjoyable. At the end of the book there is a list of all of the books they read during the "streak", and perhaps one of my favorite things about that list is that it isn't entirely made up of the classic cannon - there are very modern books on there, including favorites of mine such as Each Little Bird That Sings.

Can't wait to buy my own copy. I'll be recommending this one to lots of friends.
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Format: Hardcover
Once upon a time, a little girl and her father wanted to know if they could read aloud for 100 nights in a row. When they reached that milestone, they decided to keep going. Eventually, when the little girl went to college, the nightly reading stopped after 3,218 nights.

The Reading Promise: My Father and the Books We Shared by Alice Ozma uses those nights of reading as the frame for an episodic memoir that covers life in the Bronzina household from when Ozma is in the third grade to present day.

Her father is a elementary school librarian, and his love of literature is evident the name he gave his younger daughter.

Ozma begins each chapter with a quote from a book she and her father would have read around the time of the incident that anchors the chapter: The Giver for a chapter about the death and funeral of her beloved beta fish; Charlotte's Web for a chapter about watching spiders and summer storms on a porch; Dicey's Song for a chapter about the awkward father-daughter conversations about a growing daughter.

The episodic nature of the book is, in part, the book's downfall. Ozma never spends enough time with pieces of her life that, in a different memoir, could serve as a centerpole. Her mother leaves the family, but it doesn't seem to affect Ozma and her father much other than the two of them trying to figure out what would make an acceptable Thanksgiving dinner. Her older sister pops in and out of the book but doesn't seem to be part of the family.

At times, this isn't a problem. After all, Ozma is telling the story of her relationship with her father. At others, however, the episodes rush by before their importance in Ozma's life is clear. The Reading Promise is Ozma's first published work, and the pacing shows that.
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Alice Ozma grew up in a book-lover's paradise, a bookish child with an elementary school librarian father enthusiastic about reading to her every, single evening, the two of them sharing lines they'd read, inside jokes about characters, etc. Before they began an official goal of reading together 100 nights in a row, they already came very near meeting that goal on a regular basis, skipping only a handful of nights. But making it an official gave them something firm to strive for, and once they'd achieved that it was time to set an even higher goal: reading for 1,000 nights.

One thousand nights! At first her father balked at that, thinking "Where will we be, what will we be doing in 1,000 days?" Unsurprisingly, in the end Alice had her way. Their next goal was set. With a little trepidation they were on a mission. And succeed they did, and then some.

The premise of the book is charming, and the relationship between Alice and her father a very close, endearing one. With a mother who'd run off from the family, and an older sister who seems more a shadow than a real person (which may just have been Alice's choice, to cut the family down to she and her father only), having her father to lean on was a comfort. As a bonus, she was the center of his world, the one person in his life he could say he influenced for the better, the father many of us dream of.

The problem with the book is after the first couple of chapters - in which Ozma describes her reading plan and its rules - the rest are unsatisfying, seemingly unconnected vignettes. As an adult, I found the reading had a few charming moments, as well as the poignancy of a child's perspective on a mother who abandoned her family, but the bulk of these stories were not at all compelling.
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