Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Ten years and several thousand pages later...

I find myself anticipating the new Harry Potter movie, although in a quieter way than I have in the past.

In early 1999, we started reading the series. In 2001, our family enjoyed watching the premiere film, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, when it arrived in theaters that November, just a few years after we read the book aloud together. Somewhere along the line over the next several years, my reading every night gave way to each of the boys speeding through copies as quickly as they could, yet still savoring every adventure and every character.

There came a point in this activity where I was always the last to finish the new book, partly because I didn't stay up all night reading it as they did. Partly because they're just faster readers.

Harry was an extended moment of childhood for all of us, one we shared for years together. But Harry has grown up and my boys have, too.

Like our book solidarity, our movie togetherness seems to have reached a new stage. Tonight, my oldest son plans to join some friends to see the movie at midnight. I'm certain I'll be (very lightly) sleeping when he walks in very late tonight. My two younger sons have been spending time with friends in New York for the past few days, and will no doubt see the movie sometime this weekend.

A few days ago, I had a Facebook exchange with an old friend about her young boys, who are growing up to be avid readers. Good for her and good for them. Books were always the one "can we get this?" request we never turned down. Yes, we visited the library, too, but I could never come up with a reason to say no if one of my sons begged me to buy him a book. How could that be a bad decision?

I don't think it was. One of the best things I take away from this whole Harry experience is that fact that this series, along with dozens and dozens of other books and series of books we shared, seems to have encouraged the boys to love books. They like to read all kinds of books, by an eclectic group of authors, both fiction and non-fiction. They seem to appreciate good writing, especially good humor writing.

But the very best takeaway is, of course, my years of memories that conjure up images of three young boys, anxious and anticipating the next word, the next adventure. I'll always see a fuzzy image of them as two eight-year-olds and one nine-year-old, fresh from their baths, pajama-ed and under their covers, listening with enormous energy to that very first book. We lived through a lot of things - some nice and some quite miserable - in the intervening years between books. But regardless of what had been happening in the real world, we seemed to meet up again in a familiar place every time we started the new volume. And even once the reading aloud together was over, we shared that place again when we deconstructed each book and talked about it for hours.

I don't know exactly what they might conjure up when they think of us reading those first few books in particular. Maybe not much - maybe just the memory that they loved the stories and how the series unfolded. I'd like to think the connection we made over those characters and their story made it more fun and just a little more wonderful for each other.

And on this night especially, I find myself wondering where we'll all be in another ten years, knowing even more than ever how quickly they will pass, almost by magic.


Chris Casey said...

Renee, I was lucky back in the sixties and seventies to have a Mom that took all the kids to the library. Every Summer she enrolled us in reading clubs, and made us get several books each week.
Yes, I got to play baseball, but the tradeoff was, "What did you read this week?"
As I grew older, if I wanted a book at the newstand in addition to my allowance, she would look it over, and likely buy it for me.

I wonder how many parents still do that today?

renee said...

Hi Chris -

I wonder that too. But libraries are still working hard to encourage "clubs" and reading, just as they did when we were kids. (We went to the same kind of program you described!)

Rowling can be credited with revitalizing the joy of reading for a new group of readers, boys and girls alike. Good for her. The genre of young adult fantasy was reborn as a result of Harry Potter.

And the timing of this - books + movies - is nearly perfect. The kids who started reading the first book at about age 10 or 11 or 12 are now in their early twenties. They'll be closer to their mid-twenties when the movie series finishes up and many of them will marry and then begin families right around that time too. A few years after that, many of them will begin the nightime 'read aloud' ritual. And soon enough, they'll move into the Harry Potter years with their own children. You could say that these books will almost always be part of their lives.

Thanks for your comment.

Hedwig Potter said...

Harry Potter shall remain forever, and the books shall only leave us when no one else remains loyalty to the books and characters.