Preparing for Potter
I’ve never read Harry Potter. Working in a bookstore with loads of diehard Potter fans, my usual excuse often fell short. I tried telling people that I was simply too old when the books came out. The first book was published in the fall of 1998 in the U.S. and I was in eighth grade. My favorite author at the time was Stephen King. Why would I drop down a few reading levels when I didn’t even like wizards?
Not to mention, when I was growing up no one I knew was reading them. I don’t think I heard much about Harry Potter until the first movie came out in 2001, I was a junior in high school and reading Toni Morrison — for school — and Tom Clancy — for fun. But these reasons didn’t work on my coworkers. While most are my age or a few years younger, quite a few of them didn’t read the Harry Potter books until high school or college, so my age was no longer a factor. I had seen a few movies and I knew most of the spoilers — who dies, who marries who at the end, who isn’t as bad as you thought they were at the beginning — and I just wasn’t interested in reading these books since I knew the ending. This did not go over well.
So I made a compromise. I told my Potter-obsessed coworkers that if I ever had kids, which I didn’t plan on having, and if those kids wanted to read Harry Potter, I would read the books too. I still got a few, “Isn’t this new HP Lego set cool, oh wait you never read the books” comments, but for the most part the subject was laid to rest.
Well, here we are over a year later and I am indeed pregnant. I’m probably the only person who remembers this Harry Potter reading deal I made, but I’ve been thinking on it a lot. Mostly because I am a reader and I want my little boy to be a reader too. I already have a little library started, thanks to my mother and the children’s book manager at my store. I’ve tried reading aloud to my belly, but it feels really weird. Despite the fact that I regularly talk to myself aloud, reading a picture book to something that can’t see or really understand what I’m saying feels like something a crazy person would do.
I’m excited to read to my baby once he’s in the world and see him grow and learn to read for himself. I know Harry Potter is a good series, so I will be happy to have him read those books. The main reason I agreed to read them if I had a child was because if my kid is like most people he’ll love the books and want to talk about them. I would love to be a part of that conversation.
I also think it’s important to know what your kid is reading. Depending on how young he is when he starts I want to know what the series have in store as the books get longer and a little scarier. Since he won’t have to wait a year for the new book to come out, he won’t be growing up with Harry, my son could read them all in a row and I want to make sure the content is appropriate. I’ve had enough parents of 8 year-olds come in to buy The Hunger Games to understand that knowing the content of the books your child is reading is important.
“There’s not any sex in this book is there?”
“Uh, no ma’am, just a lot of killing and some torture.”
“Oh ok, we’ll take it.”
I know some people don’t want to read every book their teen or preteen is reading, but there are resources and book sellers who can tell you that The Hunger Games is coded for ages 13 and older for a reason. The world in that trilogy is scary and people die left and right. When your main character is told to kill or be killed you need more than 8 years of life under your belt to deal with it.
Right now though I just have to deal with Dr. Seuss and board books. The baby isn’t due until October and I can worry about whether he wants to read Harry Potter in a decade. I’m building my stack of kids books and learning to talk to the little guy who’s growing inside me, not just myself. Maybe I’ll even read to him soon. Though, to be honest, I would rather read the second Sandman Slim book, Kill the Dead, aloud to my belly than The Lorax. I’ll even skip the swear words.