May 13, 2003
The Harry Potter effect

I've read about it and heard about it. Tonight I witnessed it. My eleven year old god-daughter is deep into one of the Harry Potter books. I asked if I could sit with her, and read a book, and I expected the reading to be replaced soon by conversation. But no. She concentrated completely on her book, and it took a monumental row about cello practice to wrench her away from it. Now that cello duties have been done, she is, I should imagine, back with Harry Potter.

Nor is this infection confined to Britain or to English readers like my god-daughter. French bookshops are full of Harry Potter, and I recall the same thing happening in Slovakia when I took a trip there.

I read the first one with mild interest, but felt no particular urge to read any more, but I put this down to the fact that I am not a member of the target demographic. I am not a child. But apparently many adults have also been engulfed in HP frenzy.

Whence the mania? A good yarn? A good yarn about children who have escaped the attentions of their parents? A good yarn that is sufficiently un-respectable (these books are surrounded by denunciations of their literary third-rateness from literary authorities) not to have been made into compulsory reading, and which therefore makes a change from being nagged by one's parents to practice the cello? All of that, I dare say. Whatever the reason, it certainly shows that there will always be things that children really, really want to read, and which they will accordingly read avidly, if they can read at all, and which will consequently make them better at reading.

With me it was the Doctor Doolittle books and the Swallows and Amazons books. Each generation to its own.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 08:40 PM
Category: Books