Alice Ozma was right at home Monday at Rossville Elementary School. Sitting cross-legged on a navy blue carpet, surrounded by eager kindergartners, she began to read aloud.
In the strong, clear voice of a reader with lots of practice, she read the class' selection: "Interrupting Chicken," pausing to make sure everyone could see the pictures. Afterward she quizzed the class.
"What are some of the words you use to write when you're in kindergarten?" she asked.
A chorus of tiny voices shouted over one another.
"All the words we know is over there," said 5-year-old Logan Needham, pointing to a bulletin board covered in kindergarten-level words.
"You guys know so many words. You could almost write a book," Ozma said.
Ozma had never read "Interrupting Chicken," she said Monday, but she's made her way through hundreds of others thanks to a nine-year read-aloud streak she carried on with her father. From the time Ozma, whose real name is Kristen Brostina, was in fourth grade until her first day of college, her father, Jim Brostina, read to her every day.
Ozma graduated from Rowan University last year and wrote a book about her experience with her father, titled "The Reading Promise: My Father and the Books We Shared."
What started as a challenge to try to read together for 100 nights turned into a bonding experience neither father nor daughter wanted to abandon.
"We both like challenges and we knew it was the kind of thing that would keep us together if we did it. There was no option to drift apart," Ozma said. "And we were already reading almost every night, so why not make it official?"
Their literary pursuits often focused on children's books since Brostina is a children's librarian, but in 3,218 consecutive days of reading together, the father-daughter duo made it through everything from Charles Dickens' "Great Expectations" to Shakespeare's "Macbeth."
After reading an article in the New York Times about Ozma, Read Aloud Chattanooga founder Bill Thurman contacted the family at their home in New Jersey. Her visit this week at Rossville Elementary marks the second time Ozma has come to Chattanooga.
Ozma's story perfectly represents the mission of Read Aloud Chattanooga, Thurman said.
"This book has the potential for making a dramatic change in the amount of reading aloud in homes everywhere," he said. "We hope some moms and dads will read this and pick up the banner and do some more reading aloud."
Third-grader Cyndi Plemens, a voracious reader and aspiring author, has read Ozma's book and was excited to meet the writer.
"She will be the very first author I've met in my whole life," she said.
Cyndi gets her love of reading, "from my mama," and said she looked forward to reading Ozma's book to her mother.
"She'll love it. It'll be a connection."
Contact Kelli Gauthier at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423 757-6249. Find her online at facebook.com/reportergauthier or twitter.com/gauthierkelli.