Harry Potter and the Gift of Literacy
Since the end of February, our daughter, Lily, has voraciously read all seven Harry Potter books. We’ve been waiting for this time to come for a while.
We tried a couple of years ago to have the “Summer of Potter” but it backfired. We were trying to force something that wasn’t ready. And then, out of the blue, she was ready. She picked up Book one, read it, and immediately started analyzing it for themes of courage and perseverance. As she read each subsequent book, she actively looked for those themes and was more than willing to share the support she found in each text that aligned with those themes.
It was just yesterday, it seems, that she read her first book--full of sight words and short sentences and now here we are, several years later, and Lily is a proficient reader and analyzer of text. And she does it well.
I’m writing this all down because of the feat that she’s accomplished. She read outside of school, beyond what she was already reading in school, sometimes juggling multiple books at a time. She read for the joy of doing so and discovered playgrounds and fantasies and vacations and self-motivation.
By the numbers, Lily:
Read 7 books, some of which were over 800 pages long.
Read all 7 books in approximately 3 months, though it took more than 15 years to write and release them all.
She read more than 4 thousand pages.
She read more than 1,084,000 words. One Million Words!
She read more than 60 hours over the course of the last three months (and that is above what she was required to read at school and for school assignments).
As she finished each book, she watched the movie, noting differences between the filmed version and the written version. She sometimes lamented what was left out of the movies as essential parts of the plots in the books.
She had visceral emotional reactions to character deaths, particularly toward the end of the series. She was deeply invested in these stories and the characters.
She was ready to receive the text structure of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, a new installment that was released in script form. She is following the form flawlessly.
She doesn’t know this, but her great-grandmother Marguerite used to be scolded as a child for reading so much. As I got older, grandma Marguerite and I used to read and share the same authors: James Patterson, Patricia Cornwell, Margaret Atwood, Maeve Binchy, Agatha Christie, David Baldacci, John Grisham, Nicholas Sparks, and more.
Lily doesn’t know that just about every summer between 2nd grade and 6th grade, my brother and I participated in the Y’s Summer Reading Program through the library. I won the contest one summer by reading 86 books--the most books I had read over the course of a couple of months in my life. (At that point.)
She doesn’t know that the love of reading is just in her blood. It’s in her wiring.
Lily doesn’t know what a gift it is to see my child as a literate human. To see her reading and writing and communicating and creating art with words is a gift beyond measure. Lily doesn’t know that her proficiency with literacy is so important to me. What she demonstrates daily is far and above any standardized test or diagnostic measure. The kid just likes to read. And I love it.
By the way, Harry Potter isn’t a catalyst here. He’s just the latest passenger on Lily’s Literacy Train. This time, she embarked from Platform 9 & ¾; next time, who knows? Harry Potter, though, marked a major point in Lily’s reading life - a significant amount of effort went into exploring this world and I guess this blog post is my way of commemorating the occasion.
We are at a crossroads, I think. A passage. A rite. Lily is shifting into adulthood right before our eyes in so many inconspicuous ways that, when woven together, paint a picture of a woman on the rise. So much fire. So much sunlight. Such a great reader and writer.
So thank you, Harry Potter. Thank you, J.K. Rowling. You’ve given me the gift of seeing my child as an accomplisher of tasks. As a perseverent reader. As a completer of things. As an appreciator of words and art.
There is no greater gift.
*Image from Mohamed Hassan from Pixabay.com. Creative Commons License for use.