I vividly remember the first time Harry Potter impacted my life. It was the fall of 2000 and I was in third grade. My mum had tried to get me to read J.K. Rowling's books the year before, but I just couldn't 'get into' them. I scoffed at Harry, not understanding the complexity of the plot. Fast forward 365 days and my life would be changed forever.
My teacher, Mrs. Rose, always read us the best books after recess. She treated us with much more respect than the average nine year old, reading us books like Where the Red Fern Grows. On the day that we neared the end of that book, she cancelled all of the afternoon's subjects and called us over to the space in front of her chair. We sat there mystified at the adventures of Old Dan and Little Ann and when she read the ending to us tears filled everyone's eyes in the classroom, even hers.
One day, she pulled out her copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and asked us if the book offended anyone. Now, that was something new to me. Ever since the age of three when I could read to myself, I've loved books. How could a book possibly be bad? Luckily no one said anything and she then changed my life forever. She read to us about the horrid Dursley family, odd Dedalus Diggle, and, of course, The Boy Who Lived. You could scarcely hear a breath being taken for fear of missing one of J.K. Rowling's beautifully written sentences. We absorbed every word until the chapter was over and the magic spell set upon us was broken. My classmates and even my normally shy self called out for more but she refused to continue reading. If we wanted to know poor Harry's fate, we would have to finish the book by ourselves.
An obsession with Harry Potter was instilled upon our class. The clear images the book depicted, such as the troll encountered by the trio – "It was a horrible sight. Twelve feet tall, its skin was a dull, granite gray, its great lumpy body like a boulder with its small bald head perched on top like a coconut. It had short legs thick as tree trunks with flat, horny feet." 1 – captured the minds of even the students with the least enthusiasm towards reading. The Sorting Hat's song encouraged everyone to pick a favorite house. The mystery of whether Snape was good or evil (something I'm still debating today) kept me turning page after page in a hurried frenzy. The moment we knew that Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone was going to be made into a film, Mrs. Rose called us over to her desk one by one and showed us the official website. We all glowed with joy as the bright red Hogwarts Express raced across the tiny screen. People brought in copied sheets from Harry Potter colouring books that were proudly displayed on their desks. All of the books were checked out of our school library. It's hard to imagine a group of nine year olds could be driven to read by a single chapter, but we were.
Now that I'm older, I of course have plenty of projects to do for school. Completing projects has always been both fun and challenging for me- mainly because I try to think of every way possible to incorporate Harry Potter into them. Whether it is a little detail (like a picture of J.K. Rowling's website on a mini computer made for a math assignment) or the basis of the whole project, Harry always finds his way into my work. When we had to take a survey in math this past May, I decided to create a questionnaire for the teachers at my school based on the trials a mother had started in Georgia to prohibit Harry Potter books in public school libraries. To my surprise, the response was quite varied. One teacher went so far as to say that the books support Satanism and that there is too much witchcraft in the books. To me, the irony was overwhelming. I couldn't believe that someone could be so naive! I never believed that the books support Satanism and never will. On the contrary, J.K. Rowling presents examples of doing the right thing, such as when Harry tells Cedric about the dragons in the first task of the Triwizard Tournament.2 Another example would be when Lily Potter died for her son, demonstrating love, which has been a major theme throughout the series.
In eighth grade I persuaded my Advanced Language Arts teacher to let us do a book report from a biography. Of course I picked Jo Rowling. I believe I had the report written that very night. Presenting it, though, was another story. I almost passed out because I'm so shy and talking to my peers is the hardest thing for me to do. The fact that I was portraying my heroine didn't help much either as I felt that I had to live up to very large expectations. I've read many biographies about J.K. Rowling and have realized how similar to her I actually am and knowing that she can get up in front of thousands of people and speak made me recognize how trivial my situation was compared to hers.
My mum now has her teaching degree and is making the move from third to sixth grade this year. I've finally been able to persuade her to try to use Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone as one of the books she will teach with. (I'm sure that my bribing of writing her lesson plans also helped.) She has to make sure that it's not banned from our school district, and if it is, all of her students' parents will have to give consent their child can read this book. If all goes well, by this time next year she will have inspired a whole new generation of readers.
This fall I will be starting my first year of high school. It's hard to believe that it has been six years since Harry entered my life. My obsession is still as strong as ever. Growing up alongside Harry, Hermione, and Ron has kept me interested in the series because I can sympathize with their problems. The trio has helped me through all of my troubles and will continue to do so for the rest of my life. Draco has taunted Harry with his fear of Dementors and I have been teased about my weight and Harry taught me how to brush that off. There is no doubt that my tattered copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone will be amongst my new notebooks and textbooks on the first day of school in August, just in case I need a little more magic in my day.
1. Rowling, JK. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. New York, Scholastic, 1999. p. 174.
2. Rowling, JK, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, New York, Scholastic, 2000. p. 340.
Rowling, JK. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. New York: Scholastic, 1999.
Rowling, JK, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, New York, Scholastic, 2000.