Why I Never Read Harry Potter


October 20, 2011 by Ray Yanek

Wizards?  An atmospheric castle doubling as a school?  A story about someone who did not fit in the real world finding a home in the magical one?

My curiosity rose…

My students, both the good kind and the kind who believed books were no more than unending supplies of rolling papers,  lugged the book into my classroom.  To my amazement, they even talked about these books!  They argued about them with excitement and they were knocking these epic-length tomes virtually over night.

My curiosity became unbearable.

I picked up The Sorcerer’s Stone in the school library, felt its weight and the magic effervescing between the covers.  Soft voices whispered to me, sang me songs of adventure and magic and things fantastic.  I swooned under those words, longed to disappear for just a little while…

But then, I put the book down.

Images of my then young daughter breached my mind. I knew she would be at home, sounding out every word in her Junie B. Jones books as she tried to decode the runes and gain access to the same magic I had just held in my hands.

An easy decision followed.  I would wait to read about Harry Potter until my daughter could read them with me.

That day came soon enough.  Thinking to give her a little tease, we watched a couple of the movies. My ploy worked.  She dove into The Sorcerer’s Stone and not long after, I heard the words every English teacher longs to hear: “Gee Dad,” she said.  “The book is so much better.”  She cruised through the rest of it, read so fast I could hardly keep pace.  When she finished, she took a day off and then crashed into the The Chamber of Secrets.  We read that one together, too. I helped her with words she didn’t understand and we talked about the story at night.

I couldn’t keep up after that.  As much as I wanted too, as much as I loved the books, I had other books and stories demanding to be read, essays to grade, meetings to attend, a home to tend.  I had a whole host of reasons that now seem so paltry and frail.

Undeterred, my daughter read on.  She buzzed through the The Goblet of Fire, aced the Accelerated Reader test at school and told the teacher ‘no way’ when she suggested reading something different.

Harry Potter invaded our home.  Posters of Harry and Hermione and Snape and Dumbledore covered my  daughter’s walls.  We bought book bags, t-shirts, bracelets, pins, Lego sets, banners, flags, and birthday cakes.  My daughter played the video games, created her own Harry Potter mosaics, and would fall asleep watching the movies on a portable DVD player on the weekends.  I still find little sticky notes with “I Love Ron Weasly” tucked in various places.  Even though she finished the last book earlier in the year and the movie has since been played, my daughter will still be Hermione this Halloween.

I loved those/these times.  I relished seeing the excitement in her eyes as she told me about how much she liked Ron or about something “cool” that happened at the school.  I grinned when she spat the names Draco Malfoy and Bellatrix Lastrange. I flushed with pride when she solved some internal puzzle on her own, and my tears fell with hers when she read of Dumbledore’s death.

I’ll say it again—I love(d) those days.

She’s 10 now.  Double-digits.

She listens to music that I have to listen to first.  A sixth grade boy with a death wish told her she was cute. She’s going to dances at the community center and tells secrets to her girlfriend’s mother.  I snap at her when she says something “sucks.” She asked me and mom recently to repaint her room and I fell into a slight panic. Maybe to assuage me, my daughter asked where I thought the best place would be to set-up her Potter Lego’s based on the future lay-out of the room.

Still, I find myself wondering if the posters and the Gryffindor pennants will match her color scheme…

Things are changing.

She’s getting braces.  Next year, she goes to junior high, where the Things That Must Not Be Named reside.  High school after that, where the Things That Must Not be Named grow in time with my daughter.

The urge to resist all this, to nudge her back into the safety of Hogwart’s and to the warmth of her room, consumes me. But I know I have to let her go.

And I can do that because I have faith.  I have faith that my daughter will stand strong against those Things That Should Not Be Named, that she’ll depend on loyal friends, on a cryptic and  all-powerful wizard, and on the memory of her parents’ unconditional love.  I have faith that she’ll make it through– just as Harry Potter made it through.

I have that faith.

So will I ever finish reading the Harry Potter novels?  Of course. I’ll read one when my daughter goes to high school.  I’ll read another when she graduates.  I’ll read a third when she goes away to college.

And someday, I’ll read one to help me remember that the marvelous woman standing in front of me is still my marvelous daughter.


8 thoughts on “Why I Never Read Harry Potter

  1. Mark Astle says:

    I read Harry Potter, all of them, with my daughter as well. During some of the difficult, door-slamming, “I hate you” times, we still had Hogwarts to talk about.

  2. Jeyna Grace says:

    The heart of a father, revealed in this post. Lovely!

  3. I can hardly wait until I can share these books with my daughter. Like you, I have not read them yet. I just haven’t had the time. (Dumbledore dies!?!?!?! You bastard!!!!!) Ok, so I have watched the movies, but still, it was reading The Chronicles of Narnia in 3rd and 4th grade and then later The Lord of the Rings in 5th grade that forever got me hooked on fantasy stories. I hope I can enjoy them with my daughter like you did with yours.

  4. Vallie says:

    First let me say that the sixth grade boy is quite a catch. That being said, I just last night laid in bed and looked at a picture of my youngest as a new born, sleeping in the arms of his father wondering where did that innocence go now that he is 15. Don’t blink. They grow up fast. Enjoy them while they still enjoy you.

  5. For me the plus side of Rowling’s work is pretty much summed up by the commenters above. All good stuff, and Rowling has got people to read – fantastic. I enjoyed readng them too. But not with uncritical adulation. It has a down side.

    The problem I have with Harry Potter is it’s derivative. They’re basically British boarding school stories with magic – and the magic is the traditional, boring wand-and-spell stuff. The later books needed heavy editing to get the right structure, which they didn’t get. I wasn’t sure that the idea of ‘rising reading age’ worked either.Hmmn. When set against Tolkien (who created a mythology) or Lewis (who re-purposed Christian mythology), or Dunsany, Rowling doesn’t really stack up.

    But we cannot, at the same time, denigrate too far. She has created something that has brought a great deal of pleasure to a very large number of people. And got them reading!

    Matthew Wright

  6. susielindau says:

    This is an excellent post! Check out the topics at the home page. It will help you get Freshly Pressed.

  7. Ray, this was a great post. As dad to a 19 yr old and very soon to be 10 yr old, I have seen this growth first hand. Its not easy. You want them to grow but you need them to stay the same age forever. I can’t wait to see how they both turn out as adults, but I’m going to miss the wonderment and childish imaginations…

    And that was pretty cool that you waited to read them with her. My youngest and I started trading, reading and discussing books before this deployment, and I think it opened up several new doors for her (and I). Maybe it was just common interest, but I think it runs deeper. We’re connecting over something that is on her level… I don’t know for sure, but I do know that reading together produces a kind of magic Rowling could never dream up.

  8. […] You can read it here by clicking the title.  Why I Never Read Harry Potter. […]

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