Harry Potter and the Mother Who Kept Her Mouth Shut

I love Harry Potter. I love Harry Potter so much that I am awaiting entrance to Pottermore for both Sam and me. I love it so much that I pre-ordered Book Two from Amazon UK, back when Scholastic didn’t realize you could do that. I was Harry Potter for Halloween before more than a handful of kids knew who that was.

But I am VERY FRUSTRATED with Harry Potter just now. (And no, not because we don’t have our “Welcome” emails for Pottermore yet. Although that IS frustrating.)

Here is the thing: Sam will read nothing but Harry Potter. I think he is now reading some of the books for the fifth time, which would be fine, if he would just read something else once in a while. I thought we’d scored with Roald Dahl’s Witches, but no, he read and, poof! right back to Harry Potter.

Meanwhile, Lily is “reading” Harry Potter. Which I would be thrilled about, normally. We’ve read the first one aloud, and we’re not reading aloud at night right now, because we are bad parents who are exhausted by the end of the day and just want to drop-kick them into bed, and so we can barely manage a picture book or two, let alone a full or even half chapter. I’m ashamed of this, and hope to remedy it, maybe even tonight, but there it is. We haven’t done a chapter book all the way through since school ended. (Postscript: writing this made me feel terrible about it. Of all the things I want for them, I want to read to them. So we re-started tonight with, at Wyatt’s request: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. At least Lily will get it this time..)

So, Lily–she’s reading the second book, but she’s NOT. She gets a very little of the story. Quizzed by Sam, she clearly has NO idea what’s going on. She said she was finished (and indeed, she sat with the book in her hands and turned pages for quite some time, regularly) and then really couldn’t tell us the simplest things about what had happened. She was pissed that we asked. She was embarrassed. She cried and she yelled, and went back and tried to find the answers (to, for example, “what is the Basilisk” and “who was the heir to Slytherin.”) And I was just so mad! Why can’t she read something she can actually read, for goodness sake? Or sit and puzzle through this, if she wants to read it, instead of madly rushing to finish and getting NOTHING! I was all tense! Should I take the books away? Force her to answer pop quizzes on every chapter? Would she ever, ever learn to really read a whole story at this rate?!?!?! Would she ever love books?

Whoa. Then I took a breath.

And I stopped Sam, and his quizzing. And I told Lily, gently, that she doesn’t have to get everything that happens, but that if the sentence or the chapter doesn’t make sense, she should probably keep going until it does. And that she could keep reading this, but there was no rush, and she could always read it again.

Lily really wants to be reading like Sam, but she isn’t fluent enough to get really into a story yet. And that’s a process that took him forever. Hello, self, at this exact age–a few weeks into second grade, seven and three months–Sam could barely read at all. He was struggling through Dr. Seuss. And now look–he’s read and loved all the Harry Potters! (I was amused, tonight, to see this HuffPo post from the always amusing Real Delia on sibling rivalry and Harry Potter reading. It’s NOT JUST US!)

What better way to finally get absorbed in the story than to keep after a book you really want to read, for whatever reason? ANd what better way to stay with reading than to go back, again and again, to a world you’ve loved? I still hope that Sam will learn to love other books with a similar passion–but I am a “re-reader” too. If I am stressed, or trying to relax, I’ll go back to a beloved book every time. In fact, I just re-read both Bird by Bird and Eat, Pray, Love. I know I could spend my time on the stack of new titles by my bed. But sometimes I just want the familiar. I want to either soak myself in a voice I’l already comfortable with, or spend time figuring out how the magic is made. I even find sentences I’m sure I never read before once in a while, in places where I’ve skimmed, or lost the train of thought, on other readings. I love re-reading.

And I love reading. I really, really hope Lily will too. But while I don’t think we should let her set aside a book and go on to the next one necessarily, we shouldn’t make a big deal out of it, either. I NEVER thought Sam would love to read like he does. If Lily’s going to, she’s going to. She couldn’t really have better examples; everyone who can read here reads all the time. And if she’s not going to, well, she’s not. I’ll just have to grieve for weeks, that’s all, and maybe throw a little mourning party and wear a lot of black, which I do anyway.

But for now, I think I just have to let go, and let Harry.

6 Responses to “Harry Potter and the Mother Who Kept Her Mouth Shut”

  1. slawebb says:

    My daughter tends to not want to read anything I suggest. I tell her it’s really good and I think she’ll LOVE it and she just plain refuses to read it. That is what happened with Harry Potter. She just wouldn’t read it and I LOVE Harry Potter. So I asked her to sit with me for 30 mins and let me read to her. After that she was hooked. 🙂

    As for not reading anything else, well, I’d let that go if you can. I have a difficult time when I see my oldest (9) re-reading a book she’s read a bunch of times when I know there are other great books on the house that she would enjoy. My daughter really loved “The Mysterious Benedict Society” books. The main character is a boy and there is a mystery to solve. Very fun books. See if Sam will sit with you for 30 mins and let you read it to him. If it catches him, he’ll continue, if not, oh well. He’ll move on eventually.

    I let my kids abandon books at will. They usually come back to them later to actually finish them, but they are not always ready when they start. See if you can find something different for Lily. I was going to recommend “The Sisters Grimm” series but on BN.com it says for grades 4-6. Not sure what her reading level is, but you could check them out. But what about “Pippi Longstocking” or Harriet the Spy. Maybe she doesn’t have a problem read a wide variety of books though.

    My second daughter (6) isn’t much of a reader yet. She likes to be read to, but she’d much rather be up and about. She may not be much of a reader and I let her be who she is. Do I want her to love reading as much as I do? YES! but that doesn’t mean she will.

    Anyway, I think you are right about reading and not understanding it all and re-reading and getting new things out of it.

    Rock on!

  2. Lawmommy says:

    Glad to know I’m not the only grownup eagerly awaiting entrance into Pottermore…

    Gabe (my 11 year old) loves Harry Potter and has read them several times. (My husband and I had a ritual, when we read books 3 to 7, which was that we would only buy one copy of the book and take turns reading it outloud to eachother, either in the car or at bedtime. We started this when Gabe was too young to understand the books at all, or so I thought. On a long car trip up to my in-laws cottages in Northern Michigan, I was reading aloud from Book 4 while my husband was driving. I thought Gabe was asleep in the back seat, but I put the book down for a sip of water and from the back seat, his 3 year old voice piped up from the back, ‘Why you stop reading Mom? More!’ When he was five I read the first book out loud to Gabe at bedtime, but the beginning of book 2 was too scary for him. He went and read all 7 books between 3rd and 4th Grade.)

    At any rate, I have two points to this now lengthy comment – Lana steadfastly refuses to even entertain the possibility of listening to or watching a Harry Potter book or movie, and I am convinced she does it to make herself different from the rest of the family and our Pottermania. (My husband has all seven books on an Ipod and listens to them when he is stressed or can’t sleep.) This frustrates the hell out of me and I wonder if this is an “older kid adoption thing” or just an “8 year old fickle girl” thing, and it kind of makes me crazy, which is silly, really.

    The second thing is, has Sam tried the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan? (This is Gabe’s second favorite author after J.K. Rowling, and he loves those books almost as much as HP.)

  3. KJ (aka Lola Granola) says:

    We have laid Percy Jackson AND Benedict Society temptingly around the house (I lost all credibility with Caddie Woodlawn, which I loved so much we had a dog named Caddie, but Sam had to read for school and did not particularly enjoy.) Pippi, too. Harriet the Spy is here–my old copy–now that I come to think of it, I have not strewn that temptingly about, which is how we get books read around here, we leave them in prominent places. I know it shouldn’t matter so much to me. (And ooh, I would just want to shriek at Lana! She is missing so MUCH!) And….Pottermore came today! I can’t tell Sam, though. he has so much going on he may not be able to get there until Thursday. So I won’t go in until he does…probably!

  4. JK says:

    I’m jealous of your Pottermore invite!

    T does what Lily does with HP. She said she read the whole first book on the plane last week. Um, no. It’s okay, she’ll get there. As will Lily. Fake it ’til you make it, right?

  5. Piper says:

    Lily might want to try the Secret of Droon series, it was a good Harry Potter like beginner for my 2nd grader.

  6. Lisen says:

    I remember when all Sam would read was Tin Tin, right? And see… he did move on. 🙂

    And our Wyatt did the same thing as Lily last year when he was the same age. Took books from Caleb’s shelves and insisted on reading them, but he was not one of our reader kids last year, so anything from Caleb’s shelves was too advanced. But he insisted. We did manage to mix in a few that he actually read and understood, but seeing him want to read at all was so great that I even succumbed to buying books that he chose even though I knew it’d be years before he could truly READ them.

    But that was last year. Now he is reading even when he could be doing something else. And his reading level is a bit higher now and he’s choosing challenging yet manageable books. I bet Lily will figure it all out this year.