Remember the story when the Harry Potter books first became popular that they were turning children into more faithful readers? Turns out that may be urban legend. According to an article in The New York Times on July 11, “as the series draws to a much-lamented close, federal statistics show that the percentage of youngsters who read for fun continues to drop significantly as children get older, at almost exactly the same rate as before Harry Potter came along.” What turns kids into good readers isn’t one good series of stories – that’s actually called fandom or hero worship. No, what turns kids – or adults – into good readers is the love of good stories in general: Good plots, imaginative settings, worthy themes, memorable characters, and brilliant storytelling. It was silly to expect one series of books to turn children into readers as if by … well … magic.
Children become sustained readers when they move beyond Harry Potter – to discover other series with equally compelling characters and well written narratives, to find suspenseful adventures or interesting biographies or compelling histories or spellbinding fantasies. We can encourage and nurture the trend if we remove the distractions and interruptions, like blaring TVs, incessant iPods, and spellbinding Xboxes and give words on pages a chance to sink in and do their “magic.” It’s when that magic has a chance to grab hold of the imagination and the child is given the chance to manipulate it him or her self that the child embraces reading long term.