OUR Magic Wand?

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Twenty years ago this week the first Harry Potter book was published. That was a watershed in children’s book publishing in my lifetime, creating a starburst of delight. At the time I had only heard murmurings on local news about this new character. However, the gravity of the impact that Harry, along with Hermione, Ron, Hagrid, Albus Dumbledore and the rest were about to have on reading around the world was not yet apparent to me.

Then, one day strolling through the local Macy’s I saw a young family walking single file. Two of the elementary-age kids had their faces buried in books as they walked unsteadily along. Each was completely absorbed in a copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. I bought my first Harry Potter book the following day. As an educator committed to the development of the self-determined habit of reading, my interest was in the fervor for reading that this book Cast 1caused. The series became a global success (now in 68 languages) capturing the imaginations of children (and more than a few of us older folks) everywhere.

The Harry Potter series is just one among an historic group of series books written for the delight of late elementary and early middle school readers. Series are powerful tools for introducing children to the joys of reading, especially those who have yet to fall for the “magic” of books. For example, series like Little House, Hardy Boys, Boxcar Children. Redwall, Baby Sitters Club, Junie B. Jones, Goosebumps, Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events, and the Diary of a Wimpy Kid offer uniquely comfortable and captivating sets of habit forming reading opportunities for children.

JK 1These series have launched millions of reluctant  readers’ literacy development. Time and again if readers who don’t yet trust the power of reading get hooked by the first book in a series, it follows that they are likely to want to read the predictably delightful second. If they become voracious readers of that series who are eagerly awaiting each next installment in order to reunite with their now familiar literary friends, eventually they are likely to be looking for another series … and another. Thus begins those youngsters’ lives as readers.

I was already a reader when Harry first came into my life. So, ten pages in, my wife and I had willingly given ourselves over to Joanne Rowling, Harry’s creator, who was a single parent living on public assistance in England. She’s now more famously known as  billionaire author J.K. Rowling. She spirited us into the Dursley’s house at 4 Privet Drive, on to Hogwarts and adventures beyond. We read each of the books aloud to each other over the 10 years it took for them all to arrive. It was difficult to wait sometimes more than a year for the next installment of course. We now threaten to take them down from the shelf and binge RE-read them ALOUD at some point.Wand

Connecting struggling readers with inspiring series books can work for reading a lot like the “unlocking” charm works on locked doors….

ALOHOMORA!

Pick a series and try it!

 

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4 Responses to “OUR Magic Wand?”

  1. Barb Langridge June 29, 2017 at 5:13 pm #

    Hello Mark.

    I just saw your quote about reluctant readers not trusting book recommendations. It’s so hard to hear that. We’re all trying so hard to bring them through the doorway into the land of reading.

    You and I corresponded a few months ago and I wanted to follow up to share the newly developed abookandahug.com. Our strength is matching children to books. I just left an educator conference in Virginia where I did two presentations today on using the site to empower reluctant readers to find their own books. Maybe they can trust themselves to find a good one!

    Happy summer,
    Barb

    • Mark Condon June 30, 2017 at 9:17 am #

      Great to hear from you, Barb.
      I agree with your goal to position kids to take over their own books selections. That is a MUST DO. I hope your efforts can inform others about ways to support kids through the passage from reluctant to enthusiastic about reading.
      Best wishes!

  2. Jennifer Young July 3, 2017 at 4:04 pm #

    It’s hard to believe it has been twenty years! I remember my parents giving a copy of the first HP to my daughter at age 7. Already an avid reader, she literally devoured it in a weekend and dove in for another read. (This book JKR couldn’t get published because it was too long and involved for kids…?) She’s now 26, and says she has read it at least 20 times since. She read all of them multiple times, and continues to return to them. By age 10, she had joined a fan fiction site where she wrote her own stories using the characters and settings, and talked and shared with other kids. Harry Potter (and series books in general) were responsible for helping hundreds of thousands of kids grow their reading legs…learning not just to read, but to love reading and the worlds and people they would meet in those worlds.

    Yes, books are the magic wand. Not pizzas, not points. Just books, and other readers to talk with about those worlds.

    Thanks for this post!

    • Mark Condon July 3, 2017 at 9:28 pm #

      Great testimonial, Jennifer! Thanks so much for sharing. Your point about “other readers to talk with” is so important. Reading is most powerful when it is social.
      Mark C.