The year Harry Potter saved reading
I try to be a good parent. I limit the TV, though my 4-year-old daughter, Hannah, loves Project Runway, ”that dress-making show,” as much as I do. We play outdoors every day, and I try not to take my kids to the movies until I’ve scoped them out ahead of time. (Yes, Meet the Robinsons was an avoidable mistake.) Still, keeping my little ones away from the pull of ADD-inducing technology is tough. My daughter navigates our iTunes like DJ AM (the Wiggles top her playlist), and my 2-year-old twins already demand to see their picture after it’s taken with the digital camera. Sesame Street is just a TiVo click away, and the computer mouse is a coveted toy in our household.
So I worry. While my kids love books now and wouldn’t fall asleep without a bedtime story, for all I know by the time these members of the aught generation become teenagers, video screens will be implanted in their arms. ”Books, Mom?” I imagine my futuristic adolescents whining, giving me the roll-your-eyes-whatever-Mom glare. ”That’s so 2000.”
But on July 21, something happened to assauge my fears. That night, I walked into the Borders bookstore in Sherman Oaks, Calif., and saw kids — from elementary schoolers to teens — waiting in line. For a book. Again. And then it hit me: Rowling released the first Harry Potter in the U.S. back in 1998, which meant that many of these young fans had spent years of their lives reading, and anticipating, lengthy literary novels. They grew up with Harry — and stayed with him, through the advent of MP3s and YouTube and MySpace and IMs. Nearly once a year for nine years, it was time to abandon the PlayStations, turn off the iPod — we’re going low-tech into the world of Hogwarts.
Today, seven hardbound editions of Harry Potter sit on my bookshelf. My hope is that my kids, once they’re old enough, will devour each one like all those millions of fans. Because even with all of the whiz-bang distractions out there, nothing trumps technology like a good story. And if my kids want to watch the Potter movies on video screens implanted in their arms — well, I’ll deal with that later.