Wednesday, November 17, 2010

HP Renaissance

In December of 1999, I finished up my student teaching and was all ready to take over a fourth grade class that January. As a "welcome to teaching" gift, my step-sister, Robin, gave me Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, a book that both she and her students loved.

When I read the book to my first class later that semester, I was amazed at the response. Remember, this book was still relatively new (released in the US September 1998) so it was new and exciting to my students. I will never forget the following story:

One morning, the mother of a child named Brandon came to me to thank me for starting the Harry Potter book in class. She explained that the night before, she had come home from work, hung up her coat, and asked her kids about their day. Brandon to her, "We're reading this cool book at school- can you buy it for me?" So she put her coat right back on, grabbed her keys, and said, "Let's go." Apparently, in his nine years of life, Brandon had never asked her to buy him a book. She wanted to do it right away before he had a chance to change his mind.

No pun intended, but that was a magical moment for me. When you become a teacher, you imagine your career will be filled with stories like these, when you touch a child's life and change it for the better. (Then you continue teaching at a public school where they DON'T ALLOW Harry Potter books in the library because they are anti-Christian, and long story short you eventually move on to another career.) It was the first time I felt I had made an impact, and it was fantastic.

The Harry Potter series was always important to me, not just because of Brandon, but because I truly loved the characters. I will admit that Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is in my top 10-15 favorite books of all time. I'm the dork who read the entire series in anticipation each time a new book was released. And for the first few movies, I re-read the books in advance of going to the theater. (And now I'll pause and let you do the math. Yes, I have read them that many times.) I love this book series.

Now I have my own young children. They have expressed an interest in seeing the movies, but I've resisted. The main reason is that I don't really like the movie series. The first few movies were made without knowing how the book series would end, and that really led to some weird editing choices, especially regarding Snape. (Why was he so cartoony? He's scary!) Plus I didn't love the casting of Hermione and the natural sexual tension that arose between her and the actor playing Harry in the movies. And just in general (as usual), I felt the movies were not nearly as good as the books. So for the reasons I just described, I really wanted the kids to read the books first, before seeing the movies.

I never said all that to the kids, of course. I just told Connor that the books were above his reading level and we'd tackle them later. But recently, he finally asked flat-out if he could read the Harry Potter books. I checked the Accelerated Reader website and determined that the first book wasn't too far outside of Connor's reading level, and told him to have at it. And he did. For the first time in his short life, he spent the whole weekend reading. He read at home, he read in the car, and he asked to take his book to Grammy's house. Each night, he looks forward to reading, first on his own while Chloe is in the shower, then with a parent during our traditional nighttime reading session. Just like Brandon so many years ago, he has been enchanted by the magic of Harry Potter.

And just like his mom, he's in no hurry to break the spell.


Beverly said...

I recently started reading Harry Potter, so I could converse with my grandchildren, Max, being one of them....I love the books. I am on the third one now....I have had a hard time with the movies because I do not understand their accents...English....cannot get it!!!
I love the fact that it has made so many children want to read....

Sassy Molassy said...

I feel the same way about the early movies for the same reasons. I thought this last movie was good, but it's not for little kids. I think it's hard for people to stop and think about the span of the books and the fact that the characters are 17 in the final book, not 11.