Sunday, June 15, 2014

A Father's Promise

As Father’s Day approaces, I want to write about an extraordinary father who made a promise to his daughter. The Reading Promise: My Father and The Books We Shared, by Alice Ozma, is a magical, and beautifully written, biographical tribute by Alice to her father.

When she was nine years old, Alice’s father, a school librarian, promised her that he would read aloud to her for the next one hundred nights. When that goal was reached, they celebrated with a pancake breakfast, and Alice proposed that they extend the project for another one thousand nights. Thus began an odyssey that continued for a further 3218 nights, finishing on the day Alice started university, at the age of eighteen!

 "We called it a Reading Streak, but it was really more of a promise. A promise to each other, a promise to ourselves. A promise to always be there, and to never give up. It was a promise of hope in hopeless times. It was a promise of comfort when things got uncomfortable. And we kept our promise, to each other."
It certainly wasn’t always easy, and Alice doesn’t shy away from discussing the difficulties. What they termed, the "Reading Streak", was kept up during some extremely tough times; during the heart-wrenching weeks after Alice’s parents separate and her mother moves out, during the sad days following her grandfather’s death. There are nights when her father reads over the phone when she is away at sleepovers or school trips, and one memorable occasion in the school parking lot as Alice leans sullenly against the car door. There is also a very touching description of a father reading to a daughter, all decked out in her Prom gown finery.

The main thread of the book is the nightly ritual between father and daughter, and the books that they share. They keep a meticulous list of these which appears on the ”List of Books from the Reading Streak” at the back of the book. As various books and characters are discussed, analyzed, some mentioned in depth, others in mere passing, they are woven throughout the real life fabric of Alice and her father’s lives. Gradually, Alice’s father’s deeply eccentric, quirky, lovable nature is revealed. She paints a picture with amazing precociousness and sensitivity, of not just the words they shared but also the spaces in between.

During times of anger and awkwardness, embarrassment and teenage angst, still he reads and she listens: sweetly sleepy, sad, joyous, anxious, silly, pensive, thoughtful moods in turn. Father and daughter giggle and whisper, laugh and cry together. Sometimes after a day spent in angry silence, the only spoken words between them are the sound of his voice reading to her… We read like we always did. My father and I, together, sharing words that weren’t our own but were still a part of our secret language.”

Alice's father's boundless belief in her created a young woman with rare self-possession and confidence. This is a mature book about a father/daughter relationship. It is about faith and trust, passion and compassion, about a deep, abiding love and belief in each other. And in Alice's own words, 'But more than that, it was a promise to the world; a promise to remember the power of the printed word, to take time to cherish it, to protect it all costs. He promised to explain to anyone and everyone he meets, the life-changing ability literature can have.'
                                                           (Alice Ozma and her father, Jerry.)
Happy Father’s Day to all you magnificent fathers out there, and especially those who read to your children and grandchildren, including my own darling husband, our two wonderful sons, and our terrific son-in-law!  


  1. A very touching post, Jo. I was reading to the girls last night. The Stick Man for Things 1 and 2, and Goblet of Fire for SW. I wouldn't trade that experience for anything.

  2. My father instilled my love of words and the pages they are written on. What an amazing tale. A father/daughter bond is a truly special one.

  3. Thank you for visiting my blog this morning, because without your visit, I may have missed out on that feeling of finding a beautiful treasure when I began reading your blog. My Bill and I started reading to each other a few months ago after two surgeries and two serious hospital-acquired infections caused injury to his brain. We rarely miss a night, unless we have an outing planned. He is improving daily and I credit part of that to our reading. I love the idea of keeping a list of the book titles, characters and our responses to them. So much to discover here! Thank you!