Every family has a Harry Potter story…
The Internet is teeming this week with stories of Harry Potter spoilers, Harry Potter predictions, even claims that Harry Potter has not influenced literacy (a claim eloquently refuted by my friend Paul Levinson).
While I do not possess a mound of statistics (and as a mathematician that does make me sad!), I am certain there are many tales of how Harry Potter and J.K. Rowling have influenced families. As the timing of the seventh (and final?) book draws near, here is our short vignette.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was published in June of 1997. My son was six, my daughter was thirteen. My daughter was “too old to be read to, Dad”, but Harry temporarily took the place of the Berenstain Bears as I read this first one to my son, chapter by chapter, making abrupt and unwanted stops for bedtime before both he and I wanted so that he could sleep and grow (and he is still growing).
The next three books (Chamber of Secrets, Prisoner of Azkaban, Goblet of Fire) came out one year apart each summer. Our family would go to the bookstores late at night and await a copy (for the Goblet of Fire, we abandoned an overly crowded bookstore and went at my wife’s prescient suggestion to a grocery store at midnight and were fifth in line for a copy!). Each of these three books we read together, me reading the left page, my son reading the right page….sometimes we would switch. Eventually we got anxious to get on to the next part of the plot and started alternating chapters instead of pages. Sometimes we would get so deep into the words that one of us would keep reading and the other would forget to remind…or just knowingly lie back and enjoy the sound of the story.
There were THREE LONG YEARS between The Goblet of Fire and The Order of the Phoenix. Reading with Dad was no longer cool, but competition with Dad was! Competing in racing, in Karate, even in reading. One book between the two of us, stealing the book back and forth, front book flap marking my place, back flap his. Of course he finished first, but he didn’t tell me how it ended.
Two summers later and The Half-Blood Prince arrived. This time I finished first, because Harry couldn’t compete with high school, girls and marching band. Sometimes reality gets in the way of fantasy. And, fortunately or unfortunately, my son still has not finished Book 6. We’ve seen all the movies as a family (except for this last one….sometimes girls get in the way of family!), and both of my kids read vociferously (nice word that!). They read a lot before Harry, they’ve both read a lot after Harry, no matter what the statistics say.
So here I sit, waiting for Book 7 to come, not wanting to let go of either my son or Harry. But reality always gets in the way.