A Father-Daughter Reading Tradition
WHEN Jim Brozina’s older daughter, Kathy, was in fourth grade, he was reading Beverly Cleary’s “Dear Mr. Henshaw” to her at bedtime, when she announced she’d had enough. “She said, ‘Dad, that’s it, I’ll take over from here,’ ” Mr. Brozina recalled. “I was, ‘Oh no.’ I didn’t want to stop. We really never got back to reading together after that.” Mr. Brozina, a single father and an elementary school librarian who reads aloud for a living, did not want the same thing to happen with his younger daughter, Kristen. So when she hit fourth grade, he proposed The Streak: to see if they could read together for 100 straight bedtimes without missing once. They were both big fans of L. Frank Baum’s Oz books, and on Nov. 11, 1997, started The Streak with “The Tin Woodman of Oz.” When The Streak reached 100, they celebrated with a pancake breakfast, and Kristen whispered, “I think we should try for 1,000 nights.” Mr. Brozina was delighted, but what he was thinking was, a thousand nights?! “I thought, we’ll never do it,” he recalled. “And then we got to 1,000, and we said, ‘How can we stop?’ ” For 3,218 nights (and some mornings, if Mr. Brozina was coming home too late to read), The Streak went on. It progressed from James Marshall’s picture books about George and Martha (two close friends who happen to be hippos) to middle-school classics like “When Zachary Beaver Came to Town” to the 14 Oz books (which they read four times each), to Harry Potter, Agatha Christie, Dickens and Shakespeare, continuing on, until Kristen’s first day of college. As Kristen got older, she was active in community theater groups that would rehearse late, and a few dozen times, Mr. Brozina turned up and read to her between scenes. One night, a rehearsal for “I Remember Mama” was supposed to end at 11:30, but the director, upset with the performance, was yelling at the players. “Our rule was we had to read before midnight and it had to be at least 10 minutes,” Mr. Brozina said. “It was 11:45 and he wasn’t letting up.” “Dad took me off the stage,” Kristen said. “I was 17.” “We sat in the auditorium and I read to her,” said Mr. Brozina.
The Streak ended on Sept. 2, 2006. It was Kristen’s first day of college, and it was time. Her dorm room was so crowded with boxes, he read to her in a stairwell. The Streak ended as it began, with L. Frank Baum, the first chapter of his most famous “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.”