Monday, August 15, 2011

The Reading Promise - Alice Ozma

Alice Ozma's school librarian father always read to her.  She can't remember a time when he didn't.  But, things do sometimes get in the way, and so there were, of course, nights when the were too tired to read.  Or Alice was sick.  Or they just got caught up in other things.  But, when Alice is 8 or 9 years old, father and daughter made a promise to each other that they would read together every single night, without fail.  And so The Streak began.  As Alice grew older, her mother left the house.  Her sister went off to college.  Alice entered high school, where it wasn't exactly "cool" to read with your father every evening.  But, still The Streak continued.  I like the concept of this memoir - Alice's recollection of how things were with her father, and the important of reading out loud, even after she was clearly old enough to read to herself.  But there is much in this book that goes without explanation.  Her mother moves out, and there is a hint that mental illness played a role, but there is no real exploration of how that impacted Alice's upbringing.  Her father seems to have some odd intimacy issues, and despite being a clearly devoted father, can't quite seem to hold real conversations with his youngest child.  While this is hinted at - in particular in a chapter in which her father reads Dicey's Song to her, again, there's no explanation of how this truly affected the relationship.  It's as if there is so much distance and discomfort between the two - but that it is erased for those minutes and hours during the day when they're reading together.  I'm not sure if I feel like that is a wonderful thing, or a charade.  Eventually, of course, The Streak has to end, but it is amazing in its endurance - and Alice and her father do have an amazing relationship that made me both laugh and cry.  There were times when the book definitely got off course, and Alice spoke more about her own thoughts and self than about the books themselves.  I get that it's not really about the books, but I still would have liked a little more reflection about why they chose the books they did and what they meant to her at the time.  Despite my reservations about the actual book itself, I did still find it inspiring, and have made a committment to read every day to my son - something that I hope will turn into a tradition of our own and hopefully help him develop a love of books himself.

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