Happy Father’s Day! For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been enjoying The Reading Promise: My father and the books we shared by Alice Ozma. This was such a fitting book to read as I think about my own relationship and reading life with my 18-month old daughter, but the book connected with me in so many more ways as well.
The Reading Promise is Alice Ozma’s memories of a reading streak that she achieved with her father from the time she was in 4th grade until college. Her father, an elementary librarian (see another connection?), had seen his older daughter move away from wanting to be read to, so he vowed he wouldn’t let that happen with his youngest daughter. Even though they already enjoyed reading together often, they decided to make a commitment to read together every day for 100 days. When they accomplished that, they set their sights on 1,000 days and just kept going. Alice recounts the stories of her life and how the streak seemed to come into every aspect of her life from informing her questions about growing up to coping with life topics like divorce to finding the conversations to have with her father. The book is about so much more than just the streak. It surrounds the reader with ideas and themes such as:
- a single father doing everything he can to provide for his family
- the importance of immersing yourself in the written word
- how a solid foundation in stories can inform every aspect of your life, including your successes and your struggles
- the changing roles of libraries and librarians
- the challenges of holding to a commitment
- the value of daily family time
- how literature can be a doorway to the most difficult conversations in life
- the dangers of censorship
After seeing where “the streak” took this now 22-year-old, I can’t help but think about my own life and my own students and families. What would happen if every family in my school started a streak? What would it look like? How would it change the culture of my school? How would it impact student achievement? What roles could technology play?
So much has developed since Alice Ozma experienced the streak with her father. I could imagine families using blogs, wikis, and shared documents to document their streak. Tools such as Skype or Face Time could be used stay in touch on nights when they might be away from one another. E-books and the many tools that accompany them such as highlighting, sharing, and note-taking could further support family discussions. At the same time, more traditional print books and journals could still be a valuable tool as well. I think so often there is a mindset that it’s technology or paper when in reality it’s a combination of them all. We must harness the wealth of tools at our fingertips and find ways to incorporate them into our lives.
At the end of The Reading Promise, there is a form that can be used to create an actual promise to read together as often as possible, to protect the written word in whatever format it takes, and to celebrate the joy of story. It makes me curious, and I’m thinking a lot this summer about how this idea might come to life in my school next year. I encourage you to read this book and consider this too.
David C. Barrow Elementary