When Alice Ozma was in the fourth grade, her family was going through a rough patch. Her parents had just split up, and her older sister had recently left for college. Ozma was suddenly spending a lot more time alone with her dad, Jim Brozina, an elementary school librarian. So Ozma and her father made a pledge: to read together every single night for 100 days.
But after 100 days, they just kept going. Their streak ultimately lasted 3,218 days — spanning from Ozma's fourth-grade year to her first day of college. Their commitment to reading and to each other are the subject of Ozma's debut book, The Reading Promise: My Father and the Books We Shared. Brozina and Ozma join NPR's Scott Simon to talk about what kept their "Reading Streak" alive.
The nightly reads quickly became habit, Ozma explains. "I think that once you start something like that, it's very difficult to stop; it seems very weird after 100 nights of reading in a row to say, 'Let's not read tonight.' "
The streak was a source of stability for the pair through difficult times. "I did everything I could to make things be as comfortable as possible," Brozina says. "We went through a very rough patch for a few years ... it was almost scary, the situation we were in financially."
Reading together was one thing they knew they could depend on. As Ozma got older, it got harder to keep it up, but the pair persisted — even on the night of Ozma's prom. "Before I went out, I had my hair in my up-do and my fancy dress on," Ozma recalls. "And I just sort of climbed into the bed next to him and he read to me. That's what had to happen."
For Brozina, the hardest part wasn't maintaining the streak — it was ending it. Ozma was heading off to college at Rutgers, and it was time to bring the nearly nine-year tradition to a close. On the last night, Ozma chose to read from the same book they'd read for their first father-daughter reading: The Wizard of Oz. "That was the single hardest thing to do," Brozina recalls, "to read, choked up, tears in eyes — both of us. That was the most difficult, to stop it."
His daughter is all grown up and he has retired from his job as a librarian, but Brozina has still found ways to read aloud. He's accumulated a large picture book collection. "I take them to senior citizens homes and to three schools," he says.
Today, Brozina and Ozma are encouraging a new generation of families to make their own reading promises. (You can find suggestions for starting a streak on Ozma's website.) "I don't think fathers and daughters are spending time together every night," Ozma says. "This is a generation of very, very busy kids." But all it takes is one night ... followed by another night ... and another ... and another. And if your family is anything like Alice Ozma's, the hardest part of your reading streak will be bringing it to an end.