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Thank You Harry Potter

This post creates another excuse to post a CCR song.

My older daughter has become a bit of a reading machine. Since she is able to whip through children’s literature at her supposed grade level with ease, we decided that she was ready for the Harry Potter series. She quickly became hooked, and she is already halfway through the second book. So I decided that it was about time for me to go through this already legendary book series. I had thought about doing this for years, but I found it hard to justify the time investment. If I am going to use some precious free time to read, then shouldn’t I be reading something productive like History or classic literature?

But once my daughter got going, I now could justify proceeding with this reading adventure. First, it would give my daughter and me something to talk about and, hopefully, encourage her to keep going. Just yesterday, she was horrified to find that I had caught up with her, so she started reading in order to stay ahead of the old man. In addition, reading this series could possibly help me relate a little better to students. Most of my current students, after all, were raised on the Harry Potter series, and based on what I have seen in the movies, I am sure that I can find some stuff in these books that can be used to explain certain concepts that we cover. Plus, any evidence that I may actually be a human being who has not been living under a rock can create rapport with students, increasing the chances that they might listen to me a little more of the time. Of course, it is also possible that they will see me as a dorky old teacher reading kid’s books in a pathetic attempt to relate to their world. Still, even if Harry Potter does little to enhance my teaching, I will, at the least, get a chance to do some reading that is mostly for fun.

J.K. Rowling, along with all of the authors of popular children’s series, deserves a big thank you from librarians, educators, and parents. For decades, many of these promoters of reading have complained that children just don’t read enough. (Of course, I wonder how many books these “older” individuals have read lately?) The Harry Potter books, however, played some role in reversing this supposed trend for millions of young people during the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. Then, when the inevitable movies started coming out, these kids were able to see firsthand that books, by their very nature, are superior to movies. Movies are forced to leave out key details, and many readers may get annoyed when things just don’t look right and characters do not behave exactly as they should. One of the great things about reading, after all, is that readers are forced to visualize events, settings, and characters through their imaginations. Movies, particularly in our age of fancy, computerized special effects, leave almost nothing to the imagination. And no matter how visually impressive they are, movies can never quite replicate the internal world created by the reader. Hopefully, young people will not forget this lesson, and they can carry this love for reading into adulthood. Who knows, maybe some of them will even find History books interesting (instead of just watching occasional History movies).

J.K. Rowling is also a role model for aspiring writers everywhere. A realist, of course, would argue that for every J.K. Rowling, there are thousands of aspiring writers who never even get published. But still, she is the ultimate rags-to-riches story. Her rise to global fame must seem as unlikely and magical to her as the books that she writes. Few will ever experience that level of success, but there must be many other stories of artists who managed to make a living at their craft after years of perseverance. Harsh criticism and rejection can be painful, but it is important to keep in mind that publishers do not always know what the hell they are doing. How would you like to be one of the publishers who rejected the first Harry Potter book? Thankfully, someone eventually had the foresight to see the book’s potential, and young people everywhere, along with parents and teachers like me, will hopefully be reaping the benefits for years to come.

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