The Reading Promise
Ozma, A. (2011). The Reading Promise. London: Two Roads.
The Reading Promise simply doesn't deliver on its blurb. And for once, I really don't mind. What it promise is an exploration of the books read by a father to his daughter over their 3218 night reading streak. What it delivers is a touching memoir of the relationship between a single father and his daughter, short stories vaguely united by the reading streak. That exploration of a relationship, rather than books, does more for the reading habit the author attempts to champion than the books themselves ever could have (not that I'm saying they didn't read some EXTREMELY good books).
When Alice Ozma is 10, her father and her embark on a 100 night reading streak, in which he has to read aloud to her every night for at least 10 minutes. When 100 nights is achieved, during the celebration they both question where they should go next. The impulsive Alice decides on 1000 nights. In reality, the reading streak would continue for over 3000 nights until Alice leaves for college at 19. Over that time, Alice has her first boyfriend, her first car crash and many other stereotypical occurrences of ones teenage years, always under the guidance of her witty, eccentric school librarian single father. It is Jim (the father) that is the hero of this story, installing a love of literature in his daughter while guiding her into becoming a strong and independent woman (even if that includes becoming a member of her boy-hating club). The tone of the book is honest and straightforward. You get the impression that you are getting these stories as Alice remembers them, without embellishment to save face. Its refreshing seeing a single father depicted as something ordinary, his status as such is never explained or questioned and in some ways it is this that makes his character even the more extraordinary.
Finally, at the end of it all this book has an important message that is given to the reader forcefully, without completely bashing them over the head with it or becoming preachy. Reading, the ability to read and to appreciate literature, is important. It helps us build relationships, intelligence and our sense of self. Accomplished readers become accomplished at life and sharing reading with others can facilitate that accomplishment. I'm already an advocate of reading (or I wouldn't be here) and seeing a book push that advocacy is always heartening. It's also important to note that because of this book I have already made some changes in how I share my reading with others that I hope will last even longer than 3218 nights!
The Reading Promise gets 5 stars on Goodreads from me.