I’d like you to meet Alice Ozma. She is 23 years-old and graduated as valedictorian of her class at Rutgers University with a degree in literature.
Impressive, to be sure, but that’s not the story nor the punch line. This is:
When Alice was 9 years-old, her mother left her father. Heartbroken and faced with the reality of being a single dad and raising a daughter alone, Jim became concerned that time and circumstance would pull him and Alice apart. Refusing to be a victim, he came upon an idea: He would read to little Alice every night, just the two of them, sharing a good story in the final hour of the day.
“It was our way of being connected,” he said. “If I got that done and nothing else, that was the important thing of the day.”
One night led to another, a month to a year and finally, by the time Alice was ready to leave for college, her dad had read to her every night since the first. Over three thousand sessions, hundreds of books and, most importantly, unforgettable one-on-one father-daughter time.
The streak, as they came to call it, ended in the stairwell of Alice’s dorm, one final story before the start of her freshman year. Jim cried.
Fittingly, Alice has just written a book about their nine-year journey of stories and time together. It’s titled, The Reading Promise: My Father, and the Books We Shared.
In a recent post on a development at the New York City Library, I shared some of my thoughts on the power and benefit of good books. Jim and Alice’s story helps to remind us of the importance and value of reading to our children. It may not always be convenient to do so, but you’ll never forget nor regret the time you invest reading with your son or daughter.
The prospect of a nine-year streak might be daunting, but how about committing to reading every night for a week or a month?
The best things in life are the things that money can’t buy. Reading to our children costs nothing, except our time, which our kids so desperately want – and need — in order to thrive and flourish. You’ll also quickly realize that, over time, you’re getting as much out of the experience as your son or daughter is.
So, tonight, pull a book off the shelf, dig an old one out from a beat-up box in the basement, or visit your local library. Take a few minutes and read to your children, regardless of how old or young they may be.
There’s a reason Jesus taught in parables and a corresponding and related reason why children flocked to His side to listen, love and be loved by Him. Children (and adults!) love colorful accounts of adventure and drama. A good book is not only a refuge, but also gives us the tools and courage to do great things. In a good story, we’re not just entertained, but also enlightened, inspired and hopefully, positively changed. And by introducing these good books that contain great stories to our children, we’re helping to open wide God’s world and wonder to them.