Before reading The Reading Promise, my first impression of the book was one of awe. A father and daughter promising to read together for 100 nights? That is beyond impressive! And having that turn into thousands of consecutive nights showed admirable dedication! But as I thought about it more, it started to sound a little weird…
If they started when Alice was in third grade, that means she was a teenager by the time they finished! I didn’t even like my parents to walk next to me at the mall by time I was 12! But then I read Alice’s story.
What started as a playful challenge, quickly turned into a serious commitment—but one that was welcomed by Alice and her dad. The Reading Promise is about much more than reading though; the story of a little girl growing up in an imperfect family is punctuated with quotes and anecdotes taken from a small fraction of the books they read.
To an outsider, Alice’s story may appear picture perfect, at a glance. But Alice acknowledges her unusual family dynamic (but what is a “usual” family?). I’ll let you discover the specifics as you read, but a mother who is largely absent, a quirky but loving father, and a much older sister round out Alice’s family. As most of us, we know nothing other than our own family life, so this did little to discourage Alice.
Although even the very name Alice Ozma is borrowed from literary works, this young girl is not defined by individual books, or by the Promise as a whole. Influenced? Sure. Affected? Yes. Inconvenienced? Sometimes! But not limited.
As a young girl, Alice seems wise beyond her years, an ‘old soul’ perhaps, but in the best of ways (not possessing that precocious nature that some intelligent, book-loving children have). The story is told from Alice’s perspective but, although the story spans more than 10 years, that perspective doesn’t change much—her opinions and feelings waver only slightly throughout that time! This is a testament to Alice’s genuine nature. She knows who she is and she knows what she likes. And those are important qualities to have, as a girl who stands by her promise.
Although entirely dedicated to keeping The Streak alive, Alice admits that it was often difficult, and even embarrassing. A Cinderella-like midnight deadline threatening to ruin The Streak was not a worry that most preteens had.
Alice’s dedication is genuine, and the positive affect of reading and being read to more than displays itself in her talent as a writer. I can only hope that my love of reading is passed on to my kids in such an active way.
You should read Alice’s story, and perhaps make a promise of your own.