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Wednesday, July 30, 2014
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Published: Saturday, 11/17/2001

Harry's spell over reading endangered

Such a noticeable odor was evident when I went out in the afternoon sunshine yesterday to fetch the mail.

I sniffed and sniffed, trying hard to identify that elusive scent, when suddenly it hit me like a ton of stale popcorn.

“Ohhhh, yeah,” I thought to myself, “that's the smell of money. And to think, I almost forgot: The Harry Potter movie opens today.”

Despite being the parent of a wizard-loving child (or, for that matter, despite being a wizard-loving parent myself), I had the luxury yesterday morning of forgetting all about the opening of this much-hyped movie for two very good reasons:

First, I didn't pay attention to any mass media all morning long, and, second, my own 11-year-old had to wait all the way until today to see the movie.

Listen, you buy a half-day's grace whenever and however you can, you know what I'm saying?

Harry Potter.

Here he comes!

At the moment, it's hard to tell what's more irritating: Fundamentalist Christians gnashing their teeth over the books' “witchcraft,” or kid-directed marketing campaigns for the biblically proportioned flood of Harry-related merchandise now threatening to drown us at retailers everywhere.

If I could ask author J. K. Rowling just one question, it would be this:

Jeez, lady, just how much money beyond royalties from record-breaking books sales does one former welfare mother need, anyway?

And I ask this having happily contributed several times over to Ms. Rowling's swollen bank account by way of extensive book purchases.

Why not, after all?

Nearly 120 million copies of the Harry Potter novels have been sold so far, which was cause for rejoicing (until this weekend, anyway) on the part of word-loving people everywhere.

The Wall Street Journal recently reported that, among people age 25 and under, reading is now claimed as the favorite pastime by 25 percent of them. But last year, only 10 percent of that same age group cited love of reading so fondly.

Might not at least some of the credit for this bump in reading appreciation be attributed to the ever-growing popularity of Ms. Rowling's series about the orphan who develops his magical powers?

When Harry first hit the bookstore shelves, the pages of newspapers and magazines overflowed with gee-whiz accounts of kids who, having never before been big readers, were suddenly engrossed in books big enough to double as doorstops.

It was as if a literary miracle had taken place, and televisions across the country were (momentarily, at least) blessedly silent.

American children - actually reading!

Teachers swooned.

But how many children will now be able to skip the “bother” of reading these books by going instead to the movies?

Put another way, how many kids will have all their notions of Harry Potter defined not by their own fertile imaginations, but by the decisions of casting directors, set designers, lighting technicians, and special-effects gurus?

I know, I know. Such an impossible, curmudgeonly viewpoint.

But I really can't help it: It pains me to see Harry Potter slip off the page and onto the screen.

Here's hoping that those kids who, through Harry's life, for the first time in their own lives found books to be a portal into their own imaginations don't forget the very deep pleasure of turning pages in anticipation.

Roberta de Boer's column appears Tuesdays, Thursdays,

and Saturdays. Email her at roberta@theblade.com or call 1-419-724-6086.



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