Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Make It a Goal: The Reading Promise

The premise of Alice Ozma's The Reading Promise delights my very soul.  A father and his nine year old daughter pledge to read at least ten minutes every night for 100 days, no, 1000 days, no, FOREVER (or until college, whichever comes first). This combines two things I love -- reading, especially with my kids, and lists and goals for their own sake, so that the process become more important than the goal.

The book concentrates on the relationship between Alice and her dad rather than the books they read. Sometimes they can't even agree on what book they were reading when, and sometimes they get caught out and read any scrap of paper available since they can't get home to their current read (remember what I said about I love promises kept regardless of their orginial purpose?). And I wonder how often she spent time with her mom after the divorce -- were there few overnight visits? Did it feel awkward to call back to her dad for the daily reading time?

Although part of me wanted more about the books, especially since I find it harder to keep reading aloud with my kids --  we still do picture books but they prefer reading chapter books to themselves and we find youtube videos a better cuddle-time. But instead Ozma concentrates on how reading gives a prism to their connection.  Her father is not demonstrative, so reading together gives her several years of cozying up to his shoulder that would be impossible in any other event, and when one evening they quarrel right before reading and she sulkily stays on the far side of the bed, they never again feel comfortable squashed up together.

And her dad rehearses his reading, both for quality of performance and in case any content needs to be censored. His inability to read the passage in Dicey's Song where Dicey and her grandmother uncomfortably discuss the big issues of female puberty amuses and perplexes her -- she thinks it would have been much easier than his complete failure to do it on his own anyway.  Both of them cling to the letter of their promise, as Ozma shows when she is humiliated and also relieved when he shows up to spring her from an endless show meeting that threatens to cross over the sacred midnight line, or when she waits impatiently for him to return from a baseball game with a friend. They move together from a child with unquestioning faith in her dad to an adolescent watching him date and then fighting for his job as a librarian.

It's definitely more a memoir than a reading journal, so expectations may differ, but I enjoyed this peek into how someone's memories tie so strongly to the importance of books to her family.

1 comment:

mary kinser said...

I loved this book - so very much want to try the same thing with my kiddo!