Growing up, reading aloud was what my family did together. Maybe some during the day when we were little, but always every evening after supper. Whoever was assigned to be the dishwasher of the evening could dictate the book, and everyone else would gather around to listen, doing crafts or artwork to keep the hands busy while the ears listened. After I went to bed, if I had nightmares, I would creep halfway down the stairs to listen to the comforting sound of my father’s voice, reading aloud to my mother. Though I know they read more, in my mind’s ear, it was always either Hornblower or the Dragonriders of Pern. As a family, though, the series we read over and over again were Swallows and Amazons, the Chronicles of Narnia, and the Lord of the Rings. The last, early enough that I experienced a brief burst in popularity with my fourth-grade classmates, when our teacher read Fellowship aloud to us and I was the only one who knew what happened next. Those memories are why I felt compelled to read this book.
The Reading Promise by Alice Ozma This memoir comes from a young woman who made a promise with her father at about age 9: they would read together every night. At first, they planned to read for 100 nights, but as they reached that goal, they aimed for 1000 and then kept right on going. They read through Alice Ozma’s mother leaving, through her late high school drama evenings and her father’s larangytis, right through until she left for college. Alice Ozma (named, of course, for her father’s favorite storybook heroines) narrates the story. I’d heard a lot about this book, and was slightly disappointed that it spent more time talking about what was going on around the reading than discussing the books they read. There are quotes from the books heading the chapters, and a bibliography at the end, but this is more memoir than reading reflection. It’s enjoyable as a memoir, but I want you, Dear Reader, to be more prepared than I was for the actual content of this book. Ozma paints a glowing portrait of her father, so dedicated to reading to children that he would hide her in a sleeping bag under his desk at work if she claimed to be sick, so that he could still read to his classes at the school library where he worked. More heartbreaking was his early retirement, when his school board decided that library time should be mostly about learning to use computers, with not more than five to ten minutes spent being read to. I wish for every child to have as dedicated a read-toer as Ozma’s father.
Originally posted at http://library-mama.dreamwidth.org .