I was just watching an interview of Oprah talking with J.K. Rowling several years ago. It really made me think about my own experience with the Harry Potter books. Jo Rowling mentioned in the interview that one day she was walking down the street and a young girl popped out of no where and said, "You were my childhood!" Well, if I met Jo Rowling walking down the street, I would have to say, "You were my second childhood!" I wish that she had written Harry Potter when I was a child, but I have enjoyed the books just as much as an adult.
The first time I heard of Harry Potter was listening to NPR. They were interviewing someone about children's books, and she mentioned this new series called "Harry Potter", and briefly talked about the plot of the books. At that time, we were preparing to go on a family trip from California to Utah, so I was interested to try reading the Harry Potter book to entertain my children on the trip. When I pulled out the book in the car, my older children were quite insulted and insisted that they could read for themselves, and didn't want me reading aloud. But I wanted to have the family experience of reading a book together, so I told them that since my youngest child didn't know how to read yet, I would just read the book to him, and they could listen if they wanted, or not. I read the first chapter, and they were hooked. They insisted that I keep reading. After a little while, my voice got tired, so I told them we would have to stop. They complained loudly and suggested I drive and let my husband read to them. So that is pretty much what we did for the rest of the trip; switched places back and forth when our voices got tired.
My husband is a very dramatic reader. When he reads out loud, he reads it in a way that you never knew it could sound. He doesn't do it for show. This is just the way his mind works. When he was young, his grandmother often read out loud with him. She would get a book and take him to a nearby park. They would sit at a table and read aloud to each other for hours. I credit that with his ability to read dramatically. He even added voices to his reading, so the kids actually preferred him to read. I tried to do that, but it just couldn't compete with my husband's abilities.
One thing we did wrong was pronounce the name Hermione wrong. We had never heard that name before, so pronounced it "Her-Me-Own". It just so happened that my neighbor across the street was an English teacher, and had studied in England, and was married to an Irishman. She informed us that it was pronounced "Her-My-Oh-Knee". And somewhere along the line we realized we were pronouncing Rowling wrong too. Then one day I heard an interview with Jo where she said that it was "row" like rowing a boat, not "row" like you are having a row with someone. So now we get it right.
Lucky for us, by the time we found the series of books, Jo Rowling had already written three. So when we got home, we rushed and bought the next two books. My kids devoured them. In fact, by the time the fourth book came out, our other books were so worn out that they were falling apart. My kids had read them all several times, as had I. My neighbors had joined the Potter-mania, so when the fourth book came out, they went together to the midnight release of the book at Barnes and Noble. My kids begged me to allow them go with them. I let my older children go, and gave them money to buy a hard backed book. I knew that we would need the better binding. Repeat that event for every other book release and movie release.
When the movies came out, we all went to the midnight showing. I know that is late for kids, but you have to realize how huge this was in our family. But after the first couple of movies, I decided that I would enjoy it more if I weren't so tired, so I quit going to the midnight showing. I also kept my youngest home. It was just as enjoyable in the matinee the next day.
I need to insert here that my husband isn't really a Potter fan. He enjoyed reading the first book, but never tried reading the rest. I kind of think he is less in touch with his inner child. ;) He likes to read history books and more technical things. He doesn't really understand our obsession. But I think part of that is because he never continued reading them. Oh well, to each his own.
I have to say that my experience with the first movie was enchanting. For me, I was entering a world that was totally new to me. I've never been to England, and much of the visual images are kind of reminiscent of the 1800's or something. I relished every little prop and costume. I had this same kind of experience when I saw Star Wars for the first time. Star Wars was unlike any other movie we had ever seen. The special effects were amazing, and unlike anything that had ever been done before. Harry Potter gave me that same feeling. It was a world I had never been, and I savored every moment.
My siblings all are Harry Potter geeks too. We all take those quizzes on Facebook to test our Harry Potter knowledge, and we all score really well. What can I say? We are a family of geeks. And we are all old, and we still love it.
One day I was in a grocery store and I heard the checker telling a customer how she thought the Harry Potter story was evil, and how she didn't think kids should read the books or watch the movies. I told her that the books don't encourage evil. I told her that it is all imagination, and that they don't teach actual witchcraft. None of the spells in the books actually work! I told her it was no different than watching "Bewitched" on television. She smugly answered, "Exactly." Really? She doesn't even watch "Bewitched"? Well, there is no hope for that kind of person. Hey, listen, I am LDS, and I am VERY religious. If I thought the books would sway my children to become evil, or follow the devil, I would not allow them to read them either. But I read them for myself, and I can tell you that they actually teach children that there is good, and there is evil, and that good can over power evil. And I think also they actually teach children to recognize evil. As Harry says in the first book, "I think I can tell the wrong sort for myself...".
I also like that the books actually help children learn coping skills. They teach what to do if sadness and despair overwhelm you. They teach what to do if you are frightened. They teach about courage, love, and loyalty. Good can come from many sources if you are wise enough to listen.
My kids are grown now, and we don't read out loud to each other anymore. But we do occasionally listen to the books on CD. Jim Dale did and AMAZING job reading the books on CD! My favorite one to listen to is, "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" because the voices Jim Dale created are so wonderful! And I do really love the beginning of that story. My sister listens to the books on CD every morning as she is getting ready. She has done this for years. I usually only listen to them as I'm driving long distances. I have listened to other books, but the Harry Potter books are like a familiar friend that I keep going back to revisit.
It's cliche to say it, but I am pretty much like Alan Rickman who was asked how long he will be reading Harry Potter, and responded, "Always". I do have other books I read, but every so often I think about the Potter world and want to go back for a visit. It's pure magic!