SCOTT SIMON, host:
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. Im Scott Simon.
When Alice Ozma was in the 4th grade, she and her father, Jim Brozina, a grade school librarian, made a pledge: To read aloud together for 100 straight nights. It was a rough patch for their family: Her parents had just split up; Alice's sister had just left for college. And so father and daughter read together every night, and when they reached 100, they just kept on going.
They read L. Frank Baum and Judy Blume, Beverly Cleary and JK Rowling, AA Milne and Daniel Pinkwater. As Alice grew older, they got to books by Agatha Christie, Raold Dahl, Edgar Allen Poe, and even Carl Hiaasen. Their streak of consecutive readings went past DiMaggio's hits, and Cal Ripken's consecutive games to finally reach 3,218 before ending when Alice went off to college.
Alice Ozma, who has since graduated from college, has written a book about their streak and how it has nourished and defined their lives, "The Reading Promise: My Father and the Books We Shared."
Alice Ozma and her father, Jim Brozina, join us from Philadelphia. Thanks so much for being with us.
Mr. JIM BROZINA: It's our pleasure.
Ms. ALICE OZMA (Author, "The Reading Promise: My Father and the Books We Shared"): Thank you.
SIMON: So why did you keep on going?
Ms. OZMA: I think that once you start something like that, it's very difficult to stop. And it seems very weird after a hundred nights of reading in a row to say let's not read tonight. So we thought, why not?
SIMON: Even on your prom night, you read with your father?
Ms. OZMA: Yes. Before I went out, I had my hair in my up-do and my fancy dress on, and just sort of climbed into the bed next to him and he read to me. That's what had to happen.
SIMON: That must be an awfully nice memory, Jim Brozina.
Mr. BROZINA: Yeah. It was the hardest part the stopping of it. We realized when she had first day at Rutgers that that would no longer work. And I said, Alice, what are we going to do for our final reading? And she said, Dad, we'll do what we did on the first night - we'll read from "The Wizard of Oz." That was the single hardest thing to do was to read with all the choked up and the tears in eyes, both of us. That was the most difficult, to stop it.
SIMON: I circled a half paragraph in Chapter 25, Alice, that I'd like to ask you about. Speaking about literature and the books you were reading.
(Reading) Weren't there men anywhere like my father? Men who woke up excited about the date, optimistic about raising children alone, full of humor and life. In all of the streak, we never found a character who looked at his situation the way my father did.
Ms. OZMA: Yeah, I think that's about right. We read a lot of books about single parents. And anytime it was a single father, he was always very depressed and searching for his wife, and trying to get over it, and moping around, and the kids had to basically raise themselves. And it was a really weird concept to me. It didn't seem like real life.
SIMON: How does that affect you to hear that now?
Mr. BROZINA: Well, I'd like to think it's true what I did everything I could to make things be as comfortable as possible. We went through a very rough patch for a few years and it was almost scary, the situation we were in financially. And I would put $20 in her little purse and not tell her. And if she asked for 10 I give her 20, even though I didn't have it. And that was to make her think that we were better off than we really were. So I guess that faked her completely out.
(Soundbite of laughter)
SIMON: So do you suppose fathers and daughters are playing video games every night now?
Ms. OZMA: I mean I wouldn't be totally opposed to that idea. If they were spending 20 minutes together a night playing video games and talking while they did it, it's better than nothing. But my honest guess is that they are not spending time together, period.
SIMON: That's cause we all get busy.
Ms. OZMA: Yeah, and kids especially. I mean this is a generation of very, very busy kids, but parents too.
SIMON: So from every book you read in the streak, do you want to - each of you - tell us what two or three you recommend to others?
Mr. BROZINA: My favorite was "When Zachary Beaver Came to Town," by Kimberly Willis Holt. It was about two boys who don't have a dime and they tried to patch together an interesting summer. And that's certainly resonated with me. I'd sit down and think, how can I go through this day? What can I amuse myself doing with no money and nowhere to go?
Ms. OZMA: And I would've said "Great Expectations" was really big for me. The plot was really nice but also just the wording was beautiful. And we read a couple of Agatha Christie books, and I ended up reading probably 20 or more Agatha Christie books on my own, because I like them so much when we read them together. So I think something like that is always great.
SIMON: May I ask are either of you reading with someone else now?
Mr. BROZINA: Since I retired, I've accumulated 700-very strong picture book collection. I take them to senior citizens homes and to three schools.
SIMON: Oh, that's in the book. I know that.
Mr. BROZINA: Yeah.
SIMON: I meant someone, you know, special.
Ms. OZMA: He's still looking for his someone special right now.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. BROZINA: If I could live to be 80 Ill have it made because they're all ladies.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. BROZINA: Thats my plan B.
SIMON: Its a good week to ask, what makes a great father?
Ms. OZMA: An interest in the child. Ultimately, if you're caring, if you're listening, if you're checking in and saying what's going on with you, how are things in your life, thats I think all you really need.
Mr. BROZINA: Well, number one, I would say time spent and not just were watching a movie together but time spent interacting. But the number one thing I think a child will look to the parent as their first example. If they see in their parent fairness, patience, kindness, they will identify with the parent and stay with that parent. But they know the parent very well and they know if the persons making up stories and excuses and saying things one way but living a different life. In that case, they're going to look for someone else.
SIMON: Alice Ozma and her father, Jim Brozina, speaking with us from the studios of Philadelphia Post. Alice Ozmas new book, The Reading Promise: My Father and the Books We Shared.
Its been a pleasure talking to both of you. Thanks so much.
Ms. OZMA: Thank you.
Mr. BROZINA: I enjoyed your company.
SIMON: And for tips on starting your own reading streak, you can visit our website, npr.org.