Alice Ozma’s The Reading Promise: My Father and the Books We Shared tells the story of the nightly ritual of reading aloud that she shared with her father. This ritual, or “the streak” as they liked to refer to it, began when Ozma was in fourth grade and ended when she started college. In fact, the last day of the streak took place when Ozma and her dad found a place to read in her dormitory the day he dropped her off at college.
If this sounds a little strange, it in some ways is and the author freely admits it, even sharing a story of her father rather awkwardly interrupting her play practice when she was in high school in order to read to her in the school parking lot and keep the streak alive. Each chapter corresponds to a particular period during the streak. Her mother’s decision to move out is covered as well as lighter events, such as when she was little and her father tricked her into thinking that she was nearly pulled out of a crowd to be a high-wire walker’s assistant.
The end of the book, which takes place after the streak, takes a rather gloomy look at reading and the future of school libraries as Ozma’s dad, a veteran school librarian, is gradually phased out at his school, forced to work at an increasing number of different schools, and eventually retires a few years earlier than he would have liked to. However, the book refuses to end on a down note as her father finds a new group to read to: residents at nursing homes. The fact that the Ozma’s dad read to her for 3,218 consecutive nights is impressive, but The Reading Promise also shows the importance of reading in one’s life and how reading is not just something for children.