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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Book Review: The Reading Promise: My Father and the Books We Shared by Alice Ozma

I have had trouble getting around to this review, because I am having trouble deciding what I think of this book.

Alice's father reads to her at night before bed, and they make their own challenge to  first do 1000 nights of consecutive reading, which turned into 3218 or until she left for college. Her father was a beloved school librarian who adored reading out loud (he pre-read everything they read, so he'd be prepared with voices and hard words. He also edited content occasionally.) The premise is of course, awesome, and I was eager to hear about how the books strengthened their relationship and helped them through the tough times after Alice's parents divorced, when her older sister went away to college, and when her father was forced out of his job.

But I didn't quite get that. Most of the book were anecdotes about the family cat or Alice's grandfather, or when she'd get sick at school and have to go to her father's school and sleep on the floor behind his desk. The majority of the chapters, while technically chronological in that they all started with a day and number, they read very episodic. There wasn't much of a through-plot, aside from keeping up with The Streak. Which quickly took on more of the air of trying to get in the Guinness Book of World Records than about literature. Very few books were even mentioned outright (considering the many hundreds they must have read) and rarely were their topics anything pertinent. Dear Mr. Henshaw was mentioned as the book Dad was reading to Alice's older sister when she asked him to stop reading to her, but it's never again mentioned despite the not-great divorce. At one point it felt like it could have been a book about marathoning or trying to jump rope every day for 10 years, and it wouldn't have been much different. While I did very much feel Alice's father's love of reading with his students at his school library, that love seemed leached out of their reading together by the insistence of never missing a single night, not for sickness, late-night theater rehearsals, or prom.

I do admire what they do, I think parents often stop reading to their kids long before they should (just because kids can read on their own doesn't mean you should lose that special time, and the inspiration of a love of reading it hopefully will instill), and the book did bring back very fond memories of my parents reading to me and my sisters. But it was a bit of a disappointment for me. I think my expectations may have been high. The book is cute and a lovely distraction filled with nice books, but it just didn't come together enough for me in the end. That said, it wasn't something unenjoyable or something that I wouldn't recommend to the right person. I just wanted more.

I bought this book at a Borders GOOB sale.

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