Monday, August 06, 2007

Thank You, Harry Potter
Young muggles have united for the past 10 years in one of the oldest forms of entertainment and perhaps the keenest building block for learning - by reading. Most specifically by tucking in to the thick-paged and mysterious and magical world of a bespectacled, charming young wizard, named Harry Potter.

With the recent release of J.K. Rowling's last installment in the Harry Potter series ("Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows"), many accounts that I have read and watched on the television have featured the testimonies of teens and 20-somethings - as well as their parents - extolling the virtues of the books and how they aided in the child's love of reading. Harry not only captured imaginations,but he guided young readers into the wonderful world of books.

My 9-year-old niece in Wyoming has a hard time putting her Potter books down. She reads in the car - a feat that always turns me deathly nauseous - for hours in her bedroom, at the dinner table while waiting for the main course, and even on trips to the banks of the Snake river. Her example prompted my son Jack to begin his summer sixth grade reading assignment by gobbling up the pages of two Harry Potter adventures in two weeks! I thought it would be a struggle to get him into reading a book on his post-camp vacation, but blessedly I have been proved wrong.

Summer is such an easy time to introduce young children to reading without the pressure of book reports or quizzes or peers perhaps reading at a faster pace. They can get a jump start before September. They can discover that there is just as much fun to be had between the covers of a book than a video or computer game, or t.v. show, or even dashing about the yard. It is welcome down-time and the opportunity to learn without realizing that's what is occurring.

My husband rarely, if at all, reads during the fall, winter or spring, but finds himself absorbed in a good book or two or three during the summer months. I, too, will devour novel upon novel with a greater pace in the warmer, lazier months, and I think our example lends itself to the kids' reading a tome of their own.

"It's reading time," I have announced while sitting on the beach with Jack and Janet, or hanging out in our unit in the wilds of Wyoming. Sometimes there is protest, but mostly it is welcomed and my suggestion is taken to heart and mind. And it goes without saying that the quiet time is very apreciated indeed.

Observing the types of books the kids choose is a fascination for this parent as well. Blake has always gravitated towards works of military fiction and non-fiction as well as spy thrillers; Kenny as a young boy read each and every one of the "Goosebumps" books and now chooses more short how-to's regarding entreprenurial works; Janet has only read one of the Potter novels, and instead spends time with the pages of various girlfriend-themed series (although I have been pressuring her to read my 30-something year old, dog-eared copy of "The Catcher in the Rye"), and Jack predictably loves books on sports, especially baseball, plus Harry's trials and triumphs at Hogwarts.

With a month remaining until the trill of the school bells, there is still time to get your child immersed in a book be it Harry or Mary and her little lamb. I'm sure DandyTales and Elm Street Books will reveal more than a treasure of titles for everyone, both the newbie young and older, seasoned readers.

Wave the magic wand of the written word in front of your son or daughter and watch the wizardry of reading take hold.

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