Though I have a serious problem with ordering more books than I can handle through the library (ninety percent of my books are inter-library loans, twenty percent from out of state), I still have a problem with covers. I absolutely judge a book by it’s cover, and when I see one with an interesting cover and title and summary, well, what’s one more book on top of the four I already have? Such was the case for this book. And you all know I can’t resist books about books.
The Reading Promise is a memoir by Alice Ozma, who entered into a challenge with her father when she was in third grade that they would read together every day, for at least ten minutes, for one hundred straight days. When they completed their challenge, they decided that, rather than stop the fun, they would extend their challenge to one thousand days. Once they matched this number, and Alice was now in middle school, they decided to just continue reading indefinitely. As it turned out, they wouldn’t stop- wouldn’t miss a single day- until Alice’s eighteenth year, when she left home for college.
The story is told in a series of vignettes, arranged in basically chronological order, about where their life together went during the nine years of the Streak. Their books followed them through Mom leaving, Older Sister traveling to faraway lands, college, and ultimately, Serbia, and Dad’s job transforming into something he no longer wanted to claim. While he was reading aloud to his daughter every night, he was also reading the the underprivileged children who populated the school he worked at, as a librarian. Towards the end of the Streak and afterwards, when Alice was away from home, the principal of the school wanted him to gear his classes away from reading aloud and towards work on the new computers they had forced him to install. They would only allow him one storybook per class, no longer than five to ten minutes of reading. He took his complaints to the school board, only to be turned away, and finally he resigned from his position at the age of sixty-two.
One of the book’s main points is the numerous benefits of reading aloud to children. James and Alice are adamant believers that reading to children is crucial in their growth as readers. I haven’t researched this enough to list the psychological effects, but I imagine it promotes closeness between parent and child and creates a strong positive idea of reading as comforting and fun. By spending this time reading books to children when they’re little, books become lifelong friends and companions for the adults they become. That’s just theory, though.
Interestingly, just a few days after I returned this book, I was on the phone with the local library director, and apparently I had mentioned to someone a few days ago that I enjoy working with children and would like to read to them (this conversation was before I’d even read this book- I remember having it, but not with whom I was talking or where we were), and this person had apparently mentioned it to the library director so, since we were on the phone, he followed up on it, asking if I’d like to participate in storytime. My initial reaction was something akin to stagefright, but I battled it down because I do like children and picture books and this is a prime opportunity to read all the picturebooks I want to children. And after reading this book that was all about reading out loud, how could I refuse? So now I’ve committed to storytime once a month, every second Wednesday, starting in December. I’m looking forward to it!