The Reading Promise: My Father and the Books We Shared

The Reading Promise: My Father and the Books We SharedThe Reading Promise: My Father and the Books We Shared by Alice Ozma
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It’s a Small World

On 8 July I attended a Toastmasters meeting an hour away from home. I was early and we had a ton of guests that evening. Most of the regular crowd was running late. I began speaking with some of the new folks. One of the guys upon hearing I live in Millville mentioned a book he had just read from a girl from Millville. I think he was incredulous that I was unaware of the book. He joined our group that evening. On my way in at the next meeting, he approached me and gave me his copy of The Reading Promise. I thanked him and explained I was going on vacation so I wouldn’t be able to return it until that last meeting in August. Then I spent the balance of the meeting trying to figure out his name. 🙂

So here I am a month later on vacation in sunny Florida. After the long ride, we settled in and I picked up the book. Unlike most vacations, this one has not had a lot of down time so reading time has been limited. Even so, I got through in three settings. This is the perfect vacation book! The chapters are relatively short, the writing not intense, but the story is good. Ozma writes a compelling tale.

It is interesting to read a current book with a familiar setting. Oh, I have read other books about places I have lived and even knew a few of the players in them too, but this is my daily life. Interestingly, as the book progressed, my connections to this previously unknown family became stronger.

Ozma’s father was the longtime librarian at the RD Wood School. Well, let’s see. I completed my practicum there on the second floor many years ago. Most certainly I met him during my time there, although I have no recollection. Alice attended Rowan, where I have two advance degrees. Holly Heights appears to be where Alice went to elementary school. Hmmm . . . Gert taught there for several years. And then at the end of the book it was revealed that the father, who indeed looked familiar, is indeed known to us. There’s this guy who walks through town with a fake barbell held above his head complete with Styrofoam weights. Yeah, that’s him. And he now reads to the same group of men and women to whom I speak twice monthly. It’s nice reading about Millville.

But this book is really about my town. It’s about a special relationship between a father and daughter. It is well told. Reading is a connection that is important. That it is shared within a family is what makes this story magical. I teach the students in the neighboring community; I witness the results of not having this connection . . . of not exalting the craft. Mr. Brozina is a special father. He got it. So did Alice.

Perhaps because of my familiarity with the setting, some of the players, and certainly the craft, I had trouble accepting the ending. No doubt Mr. Brozina retired, but I question how it came to be. There’s a lot wrong with education, but I have never heard that reading to children was to be excluded. As a matter of fact, in the next town over, there is a current push to do just the opposite. And rumors and are just that, rumors. To repeat that there are no books in a library when it could easily be fact-checked seems like it was included merely for sensationalism. Again, I find that implausible.

Those weaknesses aside, I find this a compelling read. The vacation moves forward, but so does the beginning of school. An inspirational tale just as I begin (frankly, I have already begun) preparing for the new school year is just the thing this teacher needed. Alice seems like an exceptional young lady. Her father may be the reader, but she is a storyteller. Now because of this book, I have something to discuss with my new Toastmaster friend. It’s that circle of life thing happening. 😉

It occurs to me that this book has a use in my classroom too. One of the things I work with my students is to be able to craft a story from their own life events. Each chapter here is an example of that. Ozma tells the story, but there’s an enlightening moment that elevates each story. I think I shall work with that. Who knows, perhaps Ozma would take an interest in participating somehow.

Treat yourself to this book, it’s worth the read.

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