The only book Jim Brozina promises never to read to his daughter is the one she wrote about how long and faithfully he read to her.
"I couldn't have written it if I knew he would read it," says Alice Ozma, whose memoir, The Reading Promise: My Father and the Books We Shared (Grand Central Publishing), is as gentle as its reviews are strong.
She trusts her father to keep his commitments: Brozina read to Ozma every night - for nearly nine years.
The read-athon they dubbed "The Streak" included several hundred works, by the likes of Lewis Carroll, L. Frank Baum, William Shakespeare, and J.K. Rowling. They turned the first page when Ozma was in fourth grade and closed the final book the night she left for Rowan University in 2006.
More recently, The Streak became a stroke of good fortune for the first-time author (full name Kristen Alice Ozma Brozina), a 23-year-old Center City resident.
"It's been a whirlwind, but a good one," says Ozma, who majored in English and is looking for work as a teacher. She's a bit taken aback by her sudden literary success, even though her dad - a retired schools librarian in Millville, N.J., who's a ringer for Jerry Van Dyke (of Coach fame) - isn't surprised.
"I have such high confidence in both my girls," says Brozina, who also read to his older daughter, Katherine. (She later earned a degree from Yale.)
When Ozma applied to a graduate program in liberal arts at the University of Pennsylvania last year, she included an essay about The Streak. The writing inspired Rowan publicist Barbara Baals ("I knew it was something special") to share it with the New York Times, which published a story last year.
"A quarter of 10 the morning the article came out I got a call from an agent," says Brozina.
A 62-year-old Phillies fan and lifelong Millville resident, he's blunt, even brusque - but in a wink-wink sort of way.
"I was flabbergasted," he continues. "And the phone didn't stop ringing. By 2 o'clock, I was going out of my mind with people calling, offering to represent her, and I just gave them her number."
Ozma, who at the time was a Rowan senior, says she "ended up receiving nine publisher e-mails and 12 agent e-mails, and by Monday of the following week I had an agent and a publisher, officially. It all happened so fast."
The writing was rapid, too: "Five weeks," Ozma says, sitting next to her father on the couch in her apartment not far from the Schuylkill.
Both have an intellectual and personal intensity that verges on the electric; I can feel their minds at work from across the room.
"I took graduation month off, and in June I started writing from scratch," Ozma says. She and her dad had kept neither a diary nor a reading list, so they relied on their memories.
"I knew what I wanted to say, but at times I didn't feel I was saying it well," the author says. "And I thought, 'There isn't enough here for a book.' "
The Reading Promise turns out to be about much more than a love of literature. It's about the love between parent and child, and how a simple act can become enriched with meaning.
"The book is like a quilt of stories of our lives, and The Streak is kind of the thread that weaves everything together," says Ozma.
She writes with grace about her mother's leaving her father and her sister's leaving for college, and of first dates (her own and, much later, his). The events in her small-town, South Jersey childhood are anchored by the love she and her father share for the written word.
Written in ink, on paper, and bound between two covers.
"It's like seeing an old friend" when they pull books they've shared off the shelves or out of a carton, says Brozina, who took early retirement when the Millville school system computerized its libraries.
"How can you do that with a Kindle? You can't do that with a Kindle," he adds. The Streak "wasn't about a Kindle. It was about holding a book, and reading it - to the person next to you."