“Oh, I will,” said Harry, and they were surprised at the grin that was spreading over his face. “They don’t know we’re not allowed to use magic at home. I’m going to have a lot of jun with Dudley this summer…”
As those words passed my lips, we reached an important milestone–I finished reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone to Olive for the very first time. Oh, sure, we’ve tried before. I think the first time I started reading it to her she was six and we didn’t make it past the first chapter. Months later, I tried again, and she could sense that I really wanted her to love it and she started to protest. I quickly backed off to wait for the right time.
A couple weeks ago, Olive learned her best friend was reading Harry Potter. Nothing like a little peer pressure. We started it as a read aloud a few days later. What I had learned from my first two attempts is that it’s really hard for a young first time reader to parse what’s going on in those first couple chapters. I emphasized some of the important details, and paused to ask and answer questions. By the time we were aboard the Hogwarts Express, she was hooked. She came home from school each day clamoring for more.
I confess that since Olive’s become such an avid reader, I haven’t been doing much reading aloud any more. I’ll come across the occasional picture book that I want to share with her, but I largely leave chapter books to her independent reading time. Reading Harry Potter with her was magical. As someone who’s read the whole series a few times, it was like being able to read them again for the first time. Olive delighted in the details. She had opinions about every character, starting with a strong, incredulous reaction to Dudley Dursley. Funny how the ordinary home and school stuff that I glaze over to get to the magical meat of the story is so interesting to her. Later, as the plot developed, I saw her whole face light up when she worked out some of the mysteries alongside Harry, Ron, and Hermione.
As soon as we finished book one, I put the first movie in our Netflix queue, and she enjoyed that as well, though, I’m proud to say, not as much as the book. Our plan is to watch each movie following each book. We also started Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets this week. Then the next milestone happened. She was headed to a sleepover with her grandparents, and she took the book with. To read by herself. Without me. “You don’t want me to read it to you anymore?” I choked. “No, I can do it now,” she answered. “My friend Simon read only the first chapter with his parents and then he started to read on his own. You should feel lucky you got a whole book.” Stinker. Well, at least I achieved my ultimate goal of raising a Harry Potter fan. Maybe she’ll still let me watch the movies with her.
So, when is the right time to read Harry Potter? Different kids will be ready at different times. I think it’s like potty training–watch for signs of readiness in your child. If you push too hard, it’ll backfire and you’ll have to wait another few months before you try again. Signs of readiness include: long attention span, friends who have started to read the books, an interest in Harry Potter gear at the store, an ability to sit through more than the first chapter, and a general love of things that are awesome.