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The Reading Promise: My Father and the Books We Shared [Paperback]

Alice Ozma
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

March 5 2012
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.

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Review

"Clearly fabulous for libraries everywhere... My Pick." -Library Journal

"Alice Ozma has given us the gift of a remarkable love story. In her love of books, and of her father, we see the most-meaningful promises we might make to our own parents, our own children, and to ourselves." -Jeffrey Zaslow, coauthor, The Last Lecture

"Tender, funny, and deeply readable, THE READING PROMISE tells the story of how a simple ritual became a treasured father-daughter tradition. Promise yourself to revisit what matters...promise you'll pick up this tribute to the ways in which books change lives." - Erin Blakemore, author of The Heroine's Bookshelf

This is about so much more than books and reading. It's about single-parenthood and childhood, about raising a loving, witty, articulate kid, and all of it accomplished without anyone turning into the Alpha-Parent/Tiger-Dad. -Jim Trelease, author of The Read-Aloud Handbook

"THE READING PROMISE is a powerful testament to the difference a parent's devotion and the act of reading can make in a child's life. A rare and triumphant story." - Chris Gardner, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Pursuit of Happyness

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. Find out more about this author by visiting her website: www.makeareadingpromise.com.

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By Jennifer Cameron-Smith TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
At first, Alice Ozma and her father Jim Brozina made a promise to read aloud together for one hundred nights. Once they reached that goal, they kept on going: the reading streak (`The Streak') was under way. As Jim Brozina observes in his foreword:

`Once started, a reading streak can be a hard thing to stop.'

One hundred nights, became one thousand, and eventually grew to over three thousand nights, only stopping when Alice left home aged 18 to attend college.
Jim Brozina read to Alice every day for ten minutes (before midnight) each day during this period. Because `The Streak' grew out of the earlier and smaller reading commitment the need to record what was read was less important. `The Streak' was an important part of a father daughter relationship - the books were a vehicle, time together was the destination. I was a little disappointed: I would have liked to browse through a list of books read during the period: other people's lists of books always interest me. There is a partial list (of books they remember reading) at the end of the book - they include Lewis Carroll, Judy Blume, Agatha Christie, Charles Dickens, Shakespeare, J K Rowling, and the Oz Books by L. Frank Baum.

I became caught up in Alice's story: each chapter of the book is about a particular day in The Streak (Chapter Two: Day 38; Chapter Seventeen: Day 1,724; Chapter Twenty-Two: Day: 2,740). The book doesn't only focus on their reading; it also covers other events important in Alice's life: learning how to ride a bike, the day her mother left, an irrational fear about JFK's corpse, and the challenges of shopping for a prom dress.
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Amazon.com: 4.1 out of 5 stars  75 reviews
50 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Tribute to the Importance of Books and Reading Aloud April 23 2011
By Tina Says - Published on Amazon.com
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. To carry on his love of reading aloud, Brozina now visits the elderly in nursing homes and reads aloud to his captive audience.

At book's end there is a list of many of the books that were read aloud during The Streak. Ozma admits not having kept records of what was being read, so it is possible that some titles were inadvertantly omitted. I enjoyed looking through the list and getting a few ideas for my own nightly read alouds. While I need to update my list, I did start a notebook for my girls chronicling the books we read aloud together. My mother, when I told her this, didn't understand the significance of this, yet perhaps someday this list will lead to a memoir about how reading aloud impacted our family.

I loved this book, and even more than that, I loved Jim Brozina, Alice's dad, for his love of reading and his ability to instill this same passion in his own child.
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Love this book! May 9 2011
By K. Covington - Published on Amazon.com
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.
24 of 28 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing, but moves too quickly June 8 2011
By T. Dotts - Published on Amazon.com
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. You want to stop her as she's writing and encourage her to put more words on paper, to spend more time with an episode. The scenes are probably vivid in her memory, and her writing is engaging so readers want to spend more time with the scenes. Unfortunately, Ozma is on to the next one far too quickly.

One of the stronger points of the book is her writing style. In the beginning chapters, the voice is that of a younger child, capturing who Ozma was at the time. Sometimes, she can come across as precocious, one of the kids you only see in sitcoms, but by the end of the book, it's clear that Ozma was an intelligent child and, although some of the dialogue may be a fantasized version of how she spoke as a child, it fits with the picture of who the author is.

Readers expecting a close discussion of children's literature and how it affected Ozma may be disappointed. The nightly reading is just a framework for stories about growing up. What does come through is her father's love of reading and the importance both he and Ozma place on reading to children and making a place for literature in the home.

Ozma ends the book with a sudden, almost academic paragraph on the need for a commitment to reading in modern life. It feels out of place; after she had done a decent job in showing the need, she doesn't need to explain it.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Who's the audience? And where are the books? June 22 2011
By Bluestalking Reader - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
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. It became a slog reading little bits about her family life, especially since the stories lacked much of anything in the way of talking about books - the purported intention of the book.

If Ozma intended to write a book aimed at children, she may find a certain appropriate audience. Perhaps they wouldn't mind as much a lack of continuity from chapter to chapter, a falling off from the original premise. But as a read for adults, there's simply not enough there to hold the interest. Could be she wanted to become a precocious, Ramona-type character who went from mischievous act to mischievous act, but if so somehow she didn't quite manage that. It would have required actual segues between the chapters, a plot one could follow, instead of random, meandering stories of dubious interest.

I was very disappointed in The Reading Promise, and felt the description of the book did not live up to the actuality. Had the vignettes and characters been more fully fleshed out, the writing of a higher calibre, perhaps I could have gotten beyond the promise unfulfilled. I would still have felt a bit cheated, but as it is I don't understand for whom, exactly, this book was written. It seems to be pitched at adults, but is it, really? In my opinion, no. It's written in too unsophisticated a style to hold the attention. Again, as a book for children maybe it would work, but even that's on thin ice.

I don't expect The Reading Promise will stand the test of time, and don't expect it to make the list of "Best Books About Books and Reading," which is most unfortunate, considering the intent Ozma had in writing it. The set-up was perfect: the precocious child who loves reading, paired with a father who loves sharing his love of reading with her. In the end, though, it just falls flat. What a shame.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must for all readers of books April 22 2011
By educ8r - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This is a true story of a daughter-father relationship, and of the love they share for literature. It will make you laugh, cry, and possibly rally for a cause. Great read.
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