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July 11, 2007

Will Harry Potter Mania Lead to More Reading, Or is Reading Books so Web 1.0?

Harry_potter_2 The new Harry Potter film, "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix", hit movie theaters today and everyone seems to be a buzzing with Harry Potter mania. Wendy from the Chicago Moms Blog saw the movie yesterday, for free (I am extremely not jealous)... Catherine, also from the Chicago Moms Blog, posted the "Countdown to Harry" with a nifty counter that keeps track of the time left before the last book (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows) comes out. Online sites like MuggleNet.com, the  Warner Bros Studios official website, Harry Potter Quizzes, Trivia  and Scholastic.com's Harry Potter site seem to be a favorite destination for kids lately.

But my question is "Do Harry Potter books really inspire kids to read beyond the books?" The New York Times says the effect is limited ("Potter Magic Has Limited Effect on Youngsters Reading Habits"). My 8 year son (and almost 5 year old twins) really enjoy listening to us read Harry Potter books. While my 8 year old can read Harry Potter himself, he prefers that we read it to him. He seems to be inspired by shorter chapter books that cover his areas of interest, so we still have to enforce our "read every day or no screen time" rule. I assume as he gets older he will want to read more, but the New York Times percentages shows the opposite trend: "...a series of federal tests administered every few years to a sample of students in grades 4, 8 and 12, the percentage of kids who said they read for fun almost every day dropped from 43 percent in fourth grade to 19 percent in eighth grade in 1998, the year “Sorcerer’s Stone” was published in the United States. "

My experience is that I did read more as I grew older.  But I did not grow up at a time where some 8 year olds (one that I won't mention by name - B) say things like this to their friends: "You don't have your own laptop computer?". And with all the new social networking sites for kids, will more time be spent on the computer instead of reading? Is online social networking time a  social outlet for kids that replaces reading?  And to make things more complicated, do audio and ebooks count as reading time? Let's not forget online book club and discussions forums; are they a bad replacement for live book clubs or do they offer a good opportunity for discussion for those who can't make live book clubs? I am overwhelmed by all of these modern parental dilemmas. 

Who knows. For now, I will keep enforcing our read every day rule and hope that my son will soon enjoy reading books made out of paper on his own.

Cross Posted on Silicon Valley Moms Blog


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i think kids are reading more. when there isn't a harry potter book to read, they may be going to other fantasy books. isn't that why all the movie studios are making movies out of children's books? charlotte's web? lemony snickett?


I think it has less to do with technology than with the tendency to over-schedule kids. I know I read a ton as a kid (won the 2nd grade reading contest with 437 books during the school year), but read less as I got older.

There was homework, playing with friends, cheerleading, girl scouts, and tennis practice/matches. I think in high school, the only time I was on the computer during the day was when I was waiting for my hair to dry before I left, and I'd play my turns on the doors in the local bbs. Most of my reading for pleasure was when I stayed up all night Friday and Saturday to read a few books.

Rule of thumb. Never let them watch the movie until AFTER they've read the book.

Rule of thumb. Never let them watch the movie until AFTER they've read the book.

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