Friday, July 20, 2007
Potter's reading influence
For years, there's been a school of thought that maintains that the Harry Potter series has reinvigorated a love of reading in children.

But recently a story in The New York Times, referring to federal statistics, says that there hasn't been a "Harry Potter effect" -- that reading for pleasure among children continues declining.

If that's the case, says Wil Ennis, he hasn't noticed.

Ennis, the community relations manager at this Atlanta Barnes & Noble, says that tables of summer reading now have to be restocked weekly -- a big difference from a few years ago. And the amount of space devoted to certain genres of children's and young adult books has expanded greatly.

Bonnie Brochstein, a teacher at a nearby public school, agrees. She says Potter has a huge following among her sixth-graders -- and so do other books.

Ennis' and Brochstein's experiences are anecdotal, of course. But they give me hope that perhaps the federal statistics are missing something.
The study cited in the NYTimes does not match up with the anecdotal evidence; evidence that I have seen myself, working in a Middle School. Most of the books I see children reading, both in and out of school, are not Harry Potter books, nor are they "assigned reading." The study and the anecdotal evidence are at odds with each other, possibly because of the source of the reporting of the study itself. We all know that many, if not most, federal studies are biased at best, and possibly mis-reported or even "tweaked."
I work with children, and I have seen a huge return to reading in response to the arrival of the Harry Potter series. They are now reading other series, such as Philip R Pullman's "His Dark Materials" series and Susan Cooper's "Dark Is Rising" series (both upcoming shortly as major motion pictures).

In this time of television and video games, it's a real pleasure to see kids voluntarily sitting down to read for pleasure, not reading because an assignment requires them to do so.

Thank you, JK Rowling, for showing our kids that reading can indeed be fun!
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