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.