Reading After Harry Potter
Keep the Pages Turning:
Reading After Harry Potter
Why Harry Casts a Spell
Harry Potter's hot. Your kids have read all three books and they want more. What to do while waiting for J.K. Rowling to finish book four?
Reach for the clicker?
Mary Leonhardt, parent, teacher, and author of Keeping Kids Reading: How to Raise Avid Readers in the Video Age, has some ideas on how to keep Potter fever - and literary fervor - alive in your household:
Q: The Potter books are intriguing because they've hooked so many reluctant readers. Why?
A: I think because there's something for everyone. The only other author I can think of who has been able to do this is Roald Dahl. There's a lot of relationship stuff in the books; the characters are very realistic. There's a ton of good and evil, humor, and magic, which appeals to girls as well as boys. The silly stuff is meant for younger children, but there's also the sly, satiric humor in the Potter books, which hooks adults.
Q: Is there a way to capitalize on Harry Potter's appeal? Can you get kids to keep reading after they've finished this series?
A: Yes, but the key is to find out what they liked best about the Potter books. If they really liked the big showdown scenes and the wizardry, then it's a good bet they'll like other books in the fantasy realm. If they liked the relationship aspects of the book, then steer them to books that focus on characters in relationship to one another.
Q: You write about helping kids finding their "reading paths." Is this what you mean?
A: Yes. In children's book the two main paths are relationships or good versus evil. A child might like both, or one or the other, but it's important to know what appeals to them.
Finding the Path
Q: Why is it so important to "find the path?"
A: It's especially important with reluctant readers, because the kids most at risk for not reading are those who like reading realistic books. Those kinds of books are harder to find; so many children's books are like Charlotte's Web.
You need to find what they'll want to read. Better they read comics than listen to Shakespeare on tape. Whatever gets them into the page, it doesn't matter what they read. You can also tell what kids will want to read by looking at the movies and TV shows they like to watch. Do they like family sitcoms or action/adventure cartoons? This will give you some clues about the types of books they'll find appealing.
Q: In addition to reading paths, you write about "hooks."
A: Humor. Magic. It's not only the type of book, but also how it is written that matters to children. It needs to be a book a kid can identify with. Parents choosing books need to consider a child's own experiences.
Q: Some parents want kids to only read "good" books, the award-winning children's literature.
A: We tend to think that the books we like are the good ones! I think parents need to grow out of that, to value our children's tastes. If a child likes R.L. Stine (author of Goosebumps series), it's important not to say "Oh, that's trash." I had a daughter who went through a stage of reading the National Enquirer all the time! After a while she went on to other things.
Q: What about parents who say, "Oh, he's not a reader. He just read Harry Potter because all his friends were talking about it."
A: A lot of parents do this. It's critical that kids fall in love with reading. Unless a child really falls in love, that child won't become an accomplished reader. If he's not a sophisticated reader, that child really won't do well in almost any profession. But it takes practice, just like soccer takes practice. The priority is to have kids read anything - it really doesn't matter what they read, as long as they open a book. This is a real problem in many schools these days. They aren't giving children enough time to just sit and read for pleasure.
Q: You encourage parents to buy books, not just go to the library. Why?
A: I say to parents, think of what you spend a year on sports. Spend it on books! Sure libraries are great, but an important way to get kids hooked on books is with series, like Potter, or "category reads," like fantasy. Avid readers binge on books, so you want to encourage that by giving them a chance to read everything by a particular author, and you might not find all the titles at the library. Remember, kids' paperbacks are cheap!
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