The Reading Promise

In March 2010, the New York Times printed an article about “The Streak,” a 3,218-night tradition: Jim  Brozina, a children’s librarian, read aloud to his daughter Kristen every night, starting when she was in fourth grade and going through her first night of college.

Kristen–now going by her lit-inspired middle names, Alice Ozma–has written a memoir, The Reading Promise.  I expected a book rife with literary references, but it’s more a story about Alice’s childhood after her mother leaves the family and older sister leaves for college.  Alice ends up living with her father, a lovable eccentric who keeps the house at 52 degrees in the winter, wants his daughter to wear her costume from The Crucible as a prom dress, and thinks nothing of telling a friendly restaurant owner that his food is “greasy slop.”

If you’re looking for instructive material about The Streak itself, stick to the intro, which is written by Jim Brozina.  Here are the highlights:

After our readings I would often ask Alice about her day and what was going on in her life.  This became a natural way for us to keep in touch.

Smart.  Brozina has created a safe environment where his daughter can share information with him.  It sounds like Brozina’s a natural parent-tutor.

From each [book] fair I would bring home a collection of titles that the two of us would mull over, reading selections from each until we had hit on the group of books that would serve our purpose.

In other words, Brozina makes sure to give his daughter ownership over the book selection process.

If you want to start your own reading streak, you should begin by taking your child to your local public library, where the two of you can look through the stacks for books that would fit your reading desires.  When either of you find something, show it to the other.  Let your child overrule your choices if he or she chooses, but be hesitant about rejecting those your child is excited about.  Remember, this is being done by you but for him or her.


When you have accumulated as many books as will serve your purpose for now, check them out and take them home.  Your child will be hopping with excitement as he or she anticipates the many good nights of reading ahead.  As time goes along, you will both begin to identify favorite authors and series.  Some of these you will want to return to again and again.  You may consider purchasing the most popular from your local bookstore or through the many booksellers online.  These treasures can be passed on from generation to generation.

Brozina goes on to point out that the Commission on Reading pointed to reading aloud as the “single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading.”  They recommended that families read aloud “throughout the grades.”

When was the last time your family read aloud?  If you need to ease back into it, try designating someone as a lector, or reader, on a long road trip.  (In the 1920s and thereabouts, lectors read aloud for the workers in Cuban cigar factories.  For an example of a factory lector, see the play Anna in the Tropics.)

Here’s a list of some of the books that Alice and her father read:

Leave a Comment