Kristen Brozina's dad read to her every single day from fourth grade until she went off to college. While their project may seem odd to some, as another member of the extended-bedtime-story club, I can relate.
Usually a bedtime story is a small child's pastime, outgrown around the time we get pajamas without feet. Not so for me — after Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle and Andrew Lang's Fairy Books, we moved on to Sherlock Holmes (the collected stories of whom were actually too heavy for my childish arms to properly hold up), Joan Aiken's creepy Wolves Chronicles, and Dickens. My dad read to me pretty much every night (unlike the Brozinas, we broke for sleepovers, trips, etc.) until I started high school at 14. At that point I think we both felt that to continue would have been embarrassing — and in fact, I'm sometimes embarrassed that we went on as long as we did. Being read to into one's teens felt a little infantilizing, almost like being breastfed too long (although how long is too long to breastfeed is a whole 'nother political argument won't get into here).
But after reading the Brozinas' story, told by the Times Michael Winerip, I'm less embarrassed. Kristen and her dad Jim started the project, which they call The Streak, at a time of family upheaval — Kristen's grandparents died, her mom left, and her sister went off to college. Kristen says,
People kept leaving me, but with The Streak, I knew that nothing would come before The Streak. In high school, I had friends who never talked to their parents. It never occurred to me not to. If someone takes care of you, you want to be with them.
Her dad adds, "With a family of two, I wanted her to be absolutely sure in her mind that I was here for her." While my family didn't undergo the same changes as the Brozinas', reading did bring me closer to my dad. Though as I got older, there were things I felt more comfortable talking to my mom about (tampons being one of the more obvious), my dad and I maintained the bond we'd forged through nightly storytimes. In a culture where fathers still aren't always expected to be involved in their kids' day-to-day activities, my parents gave me a model of extremely equal parenting, and part of that came from reading. While Jim Brozina mentions the benefits of reading as it relates to higher education ("If you love to read, you'll probably go to college, maybe for free"), it seems The Streak also gave Kristen another kind of education — showing her what a loving family relationship looks like, at a time when she was also learning about loss. Many a dad — or mom, grandparent, sibling, or friend — could learn from their example.
Image via NYT.