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Alice Ozma
   

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28th Annual Deans' and Directors' Lecture
Promises Made: How a Commitment to Reading Can Change Your Life

By Kayla Anderson

What began as a casual challenge of reading together for 100 consecutive nights turned into a nine-year strengthening of familial bonds for Alice Ozma and her father. Beyond creating shared experiences through the medium of literature, the reading streak they built established in her a sense of commitment, priority and consistency that would inspire her book, “The Reading Promise: My Father and the Books We Shared.”

With a refreshingly youthful exuberance, Ozma entertained the audience of the School of Library and Information Science Deans’ and Directors’ Lecture with the anecdotes of her father/daughter reading journey, often eliciting laughter. She is, after all, named for the characters of both Alice in Wonderland and Ozma of Oz.

Ozma recounted the experiences that ultimately led to her authorship. From the fourth grade until Ozma’s first day of college, she and her father fulfilled their promise to each other resulting in a total of 3,218 uninterrupted nights of reading. Although sometimes embarrassing and inconvenient, especially during her teenage years, she felt it enabled her to attain any goal she set for herself.    

More than that, the nightly ritual instilled in her the importance of satisfying obligations and setting priorities. By allotting 15 minutes – although it often exceeded that amount – per night, Ozma made a connection with her father that was unique and cherished. “Nothing came up that we could not get through,” Ozma said.

In recounting this distinctive and unifying achievement for a graduate school application essay, she also triggered events that led publishers to court her to turn the story into a book. Although she faced many challenging moments, including her reluctance to write the story, Ozma eventually recognized the impact and significance that telling about her experience could have on others’ lives.

“The more you do it, the better you feel about it. You get a lot of pride out of it,” Ozma said.

She realized, as well, that others may be hesitant about establishing their own reading promises. She urges those who wish to start – but who are uncertain as to how – to make it a social experience that involves as many people as possible. She also suggests utilizing librarians in choosing books that are balanced and that each party involved finds interesting. When reading with young children, she emphasizes the importance of selecting the books together, so that the experience is even more rewarding for the reading partners.

Ozma believes that anyone can benefit from starting, and maintaining, a reading promise. As for her seemingly matchless reading streak, Ozma said: “I cannot wait for the day when somebody emails me and says we’re at
day 3,219!”

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Kayla Anderson
Kayla Anderson is a graduate student in the School of Journalism and Mass Communications. She earned her bachelor's degree from the University of Tennessee, but is a proud native of Columbia.  
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