Book Review: Alice Ozma’s “The Reading Promise” by David Bruce Smith

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In Webster’s parlance, a “streak” is defined as “a brief run” or “consecutive series”, but in Alice Ozma’s loving memoir, it represents a significant promise from a father to engage his daughter in the continuous enchantment of books.

In 1997, James Brozina, suggested to his nine year old, that they read at least 10 minutes for 100 successive nights.

When that commitment was completed, the two celebrated at their treasured “Flick’s Café.” There, Alice announced, “I have been giving this a lot of consideration. Deep consideration. And after this consideration, I have decided that it is only logical for us to go for a thousand nights.”

Though daunting, and despite occasional Coming-of-Age school obligations, dates, and The Prom, Brozina honored the pact; he read to Alice every single night. When social obligations potentially interfered with The Streak, the book-in-process was sometimes narrated over the telephone.

Along the way, they absorbed the luminescent literature of William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens and Lewis Carroll; Edgar Allan Poe, L. Frank Baum and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle; Judy Blume, E.L.Konigsburg and J.K. Rowling. A partial list in the appendix accounts for at least 164 works.

Brozina, an experienced elementary school librarian, selected each title, and often re-told them in his popular classes.

Besides transferring his love to Alice through words and intimate time, The Streak was alchemy; it provided comfort and tolerance to each during a pile-up of family losses: the deaths of two grandparents, the abandonment-divorce of a wife/mother, the constant collegiate separations from an older daughter/sister; plus, agonizing financial struggles and occasional single dad/opposite sex child conflicts.

After 3,218 uninterrupted evenings, The Streak terminated on September 2, 2006—Alice’s first day of college. Since then she has graduated and founded a website called makeareadingpromise.com.

Brozina, meanwhile, was marginalized at his job when the school’s principals decided that reading was really irrelevant to a kid’s development. And, despite his appeal to higher level officials in the school district, Brozina was thwarted. His beloved library was cleaned of its purpose, his book collection, and–charm.

As of now, Brozina plans to run for a position on the school board.

This is a magnificent work for the matrix of librarians, teachers, readers-to-be, and readers—everywhere.

It is: compassionate and unforgettable.

 

David Bruce Smith has a bachelor’s degree in American Literature from George Washington University, and a master’s in journalism from New York University. During the past twenty years he has been a real estate executive, and the Editor-in-Chief/ Publisher of Crystal City Magazine. He is the author of nine books (In Many Arenas13 Young MenTennesseeThree Miles From ProvidenceConversations with Papa CharlieAfternoon Tea with MomLetters to My ChildrenBuilding the Community, and Continuum.)

Letters to Editor

  1. this review not only makes me want to go out and buy the book, but now I want to read to my grandaughter more…… the real stuff…..like,
    the word on paper that you can touch, spill things on, get the book a little dogeared and get a sense that this book was well loved without a pixel anywhere in sight…….

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