Why We Don't Read Harry Potter
In the fall of 2000, I began teaching English and literature in a small, private middle school in the Washington, DC suburbs. The first Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, was becoming popular in the United States, but it had not yet reached the fever pitch excitement that was soon to come. By the time I began teaching at a public middle school the next fall, Harry Potter mania was everywhere. The first movie was about to be released, and every sixth grade girl was in love with Harry. Every sixth grade boy wanted to be him. I bought the books and prepared myself to be part of the Harry Potter craze.
The problem was that as an English and reading teacher, it quickly became too much. I loved that the Harry Potter series encouraged kids to read, especially those who just wouldn't read anything else, but after awhile the Harry Potter book reports, projects, posters, binders, and summaries began to make me feel as grumpy as old Voldemort himself. I'm sorry. The one whose name cannot be spoken. Middle schoolers already speak a different language, and as a fairly new teacher, I already had my hands full figuring out what my students were talking about. I didn't want to have to figure out what a muggle is or that Hogwarts isn't a rival school.
Now I have a seven year old who is very precocious and flying through our home library. I've introduced her to Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume, but lately she's been asking for Harry Potter. I'm not against following the crowd. In fact, I'm still proud that New Kids On The Block was my first concert when I was eleven years old. But I'm just not ready to be thrown back into the obsessed world of a child devouring the Harry Potter series, lost in the land of magic. I also don't believe that just because a child can read a book they should be allowed to read that book.
There is so much about the Harry Potter series that is dark and downright frightening. The last thing I want is for my second grader to come to me in tears after a Harry Potter induced nightmare.
For now we're reading the Chronicles of Narnia together as a family, a little C.S. magic to hold us over until I can no longer avoid J.K. I know that soon enough my daughter will begin with Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone just like someday she'll think Justin Bieber is dreamy. But with flashbacks of squealing girls still burned in my memory, this mom is holding out on Harry Potter for a little while longer.
***Even if you've never picked up a Harry Potter book you'll still be moved by J.K. Rowling's amazing rags-to-riches tale in the new Lifetime Original Movie “Magic Beyond Words: The J.K. Rowling Story” premiering Monday, July 18 at 8pm et/pt.
The film follows Rowling’s tumultuous first marriage, becoming a mother, her divorce and the dark days of living on government assistance while publisher after publisher passed on her first novel … before it became an international best-seller and established Rowling’s rightful place in literary and cultural history.