Review: The Reading Promise

The Reading Promise, Alice OzmaWhen Alice Ozma was in elementary school, she and her father—a school librarian—made a pact to read aloud together every night. This pact (known as “The Streak”) lasts through illnesses, rehearsals, traffic jams, and dates, and only ends when Alice leaves for college — an insane 3,218 days later.

The Reading Promise: My Father and the Books We Shared is about books, but it’s also about the relationship between fathers and daughters, single parenthood, and the importance of literature in the lives of children and adults.

A beautiful read

I came across this book while visiting the new library in my childhood hometown last year, and finally got a copy from my local library a couple weeks ago. I wish I’d picked it up sooner.

Alice’s father, James, spent his career as an elementary school librarian, and experiences firsthand the failing public school and library system. He recognizes the power of reading, and to Alice it’s a normal part of life. As she says in the beginning of The Reading Promise:

Why not read? Why not always read?

One of the things I enjoyed most about this book was how James and Alice’s reading tended to mirror what was happening in their lives: when Alice’s mother moves out, they read books with single dads and growing girls; and as Alice gets older the subjects get bigger and deeper.

Seeing myself

It’s easy to forget what kind of impact reading has had on me. It’s just always been something I’ve done, so much so that I’m often taken by surprise when I mention what I think is a well-known book and the people I’m with say, “Never heard of it.”

While there was never “The Streak” in my childhood home, there was a lot of reading. My mother is a huge bibliophile, and is fond of saying that I was a rotten little brat until I learned how to read. Learning this skill enabled me to learn and travel and experience new things, which was apparently all my brain needed to chill out a little.

What would our lives be like without books, and without people with whom to share them? Why do schools and governments cut funding to libraries despite the evidence that reading is crucial to developing imagination and creativity?

Would there be music, laughter, and imagination without books and stories? Would there be any life at all?

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4 thoughts on “Review: The Reading Promise

  1. This sounds like it will touch a lot of us who love reading. I can still picture the steps down to the children’s section of the library. Everyone would laugh at how many books I carried out of there, but I only got to go once a week, and I’d be finished with my pile of books by that afternoon.

    1. I remember the library of my childhood well too. Along with the pool at the local country club, during the summer my mother and I would go there almost daily. It’s where I first discovered the American Girl books, and where I learned how to use a card catalog.

      I’m glad you have such good memories of reading. And I’m glad there’s such a big blogging community around books; it reminds me that they’re never going away. 🙂

  2. I remember when I started driving and could drive to the downtown library by myself. Awesome. Or maybe I said groovy. 😀
    I want to read this book. My list for summer is getting really long! Lol…
    My answer to why administrators cut library budgets is that it doesn’t earn income. They cannot seem to see beyond that. Same with test scores – high scores = more income. Money, money, money.
    I’m delighted that little Nathan loves books. 😀

    1. The first library I could drive myself to was during college. Didn’t have my license in high school. 🙁 It was definitely “groovy.”

      The great thing about loving books is the same as the hard thing about loving books: so many to read, so little time. I’m glad you’ve got the summer off, though. Plus it’ll be too hot to move anyway.

      Ugh, money. I spend all day answering the question “What’s the return on investment?” Some people just don’t understand that the ROI doesn’t have to be tangible, and isn’t always in dollars and cents. Sometimes it’s about building a community, or instilling a love of reading.

      I bought Nathan some books for his birthday. 3 years old and the kid’s got a wish list on Amazon. 😀

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