Inspirational Thought

"The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing." Zephaniah 7:13 NIV

Thursday, January 8, 2009

A Magical Potter Bond - Love of Reading - By: Lisa Heacock

One of the most important things that a parent can teach a child is to have a love of reading. As an avid reader and writer, transmitting my love for the written word to my children was a joyful
experience as a parent. My youngest daughter is visually impaired. It was difficult to see her struggle to master the reading and writing skills that I take for granted. More difficult was the sense of isolation that her impairment created. While her classmates progressed to full-fledged books, she struggled to learn to read and write. She needed to use paper with raised lines, and had to write with sharpies to be able to see her own writing. Even with adaptive magnifiers, and using cutout windows to help her keep her place on a page, reading was a cumbersome and stressful experience for her. Eye fatigue would set in, and she would suffer from severe headaches when forced to focus her eyes for more than a few minutes at a time.

I don't know which of us cried more when my beautiful, bright daughter was told that she wouldn't be moving on to second grade along with her classmates. It was not for lack of effort or intellect on her part, but it would not be fair to her to force her to try to move on when she had yet to master the building blocks that she'd need to succeed in another grade. Being partially sighted is a heavy burden for a child, particularly one not impaired enough to need Braille, but
affected enough to be singled out as different. She needed huge coke-bottle glasses, special adaptive devices, and as a result was always behind in her schoolwork.

Not surprisingly, she developed a near aversion to books, or anything that involved reading or writing. I desperately searched for a way to open the world of books to her. In my efforts to help her, I was forced to overcome my own media-bias. I need to see something for
it to make sense to me. I'm not quite as bad as needing 2+2 written out for me, but that's not too far off the mark. At the other extreme of the scale at the auditory end, is my daughter, who had to sit in the hall to take tests so that she could whisper the questions aloud
to herself. Only when she heard herself read the question aloud did the words take on meaning for her.

In the midst of my quest to find a way to get my daughter hooked on books, a cultural phenomenon occurred that changed both of our lives. An unknown author in Great Britain published a little book about a boy wizard. Harry Potter was the perfect literary hero, an
awkward boy coming to terms with the things that made him different from his classmates.

Through the course of seven Harry Potter books, the visual learner and the auditory learner found a middle ground. Through most of the first books, I read, and she listened with a look of rapt anticipation on her face. By the third book, she was taking her own turns at reading, and by the seventh, she was off reading on her own, ready to engage in regular plot discussions.

Of course, we've attended every Harry Potter movie together as well, dissecting the performances in light of our own perceptions from the books. I have to ask myself what it is about Harry Potter that appeals to so many people? For me, I started reading the Potter books
to a daughter who is visually impaired. She was in second grade, and Harry Potter was the first chapter book that ever captured her interest. Over the past decade, I have read Harry Potter books out loud to her, and all of those hours together have forged a shared Potter bond. I think that a large part of my mourning the end of Harry Potter series is mourning the loss of that shared experience, and the loss of those hours of youthful fascination with the wizarding world
of Hogwarts as I saw it reflected in the eyes of an enchanted second grader. My daughter is now a parent herself, and the best I can hope is that she is able to find something as special and enduring as Harry Potter to share with her own daughter. She has grown up, and no
longer needs me to read out loud to her anymore. Her growth has mirrored Harry's as she has gone from a little girl, to an angst-ridden teen, and now a parent herself.

I don't know if there will ever be a series of books/movies that will rival the phenomenon of Harry Potter. I hope that there is, because the shared experience not only of what my daughter and I have shared, but just being a part of something so huge has been awe inspiring. Harry Potter mania crossed cultural, geographic, and language barriers worldwide. I watched total strangers become friends while discussing their Potter theories waiting for late night book
releases and movie premiers. We need more of that.

Teaching moments don't happen by chance, they come as a result of a parent investing the time and effort to make a difference in their child's life. Some of them work, some fall flat, and sometimes the stars and planets align and miracles happen. I could have picked a different book to read aloud, or bypassed reading to her by popping an audiobook into a CD player. In fact, we have picked other books, and audiobooks make the world of literature accessible to my visually
impaired daughter in a very valuable way.

Magical is an apt description of not only the Harry Potter book series, but also the bond that experiencing them together created for us.


DOakley said...

I, too, loved the Harry Potter series (once I got past the first two books). I went against the perhaps traditional Evangelical view of the books and decided to make up my own mind. What I found was an enchanting world of good versus evil and a boy who always conquered whatever he was faced with with love and temperance.

One of the things I enjoyed most about Chris (my 12-year-old) was reading stories before bed. My father had done this every night with me and I was determined to carry on the tradition.

While I don't read to Chris anymore, I have started to with Brent. I'm looking forward to helping him discover worlds that authors have created...stories like Ten Little Lady Bugs, The Big Hungry Bear, Richard Scarry, and Winnie the Pooh.

Anonymous said...

Be careful of the witch craft in these books. Satan uses whatever he can to get into your life and pull you away from God. God hate these things. "Everybody doing these things is something detestable to God," warns Deuteronomy 18:10-12.

DOakley said...

That would be performing magic spells and divination. Not reading books.

I have made it clear to my son that I don't want him acting the spells out...but there is so much more to the books than the spells...that's what many Christians can seem to get their minds around.

I read them to find out for myself if they were as bad as people made them out to be. They were not. There was a clear good versus evil plot through the entire thing...that was very obvious.

If you don't have the courage to read the books yourself and find out for yourself what they're about, I don't believe you have any right to comment on their content or to condemn us for choosing to read them.

Lisa Heacock said...

During the time that Megan and I were reading Harry Potter, we used the opportunity to discuss our faith, and the differences between fantasy in literature and reality. A decade spent reading together opens a wide variety of discussion topics. That being said, I respect the views of parents that choose not to expose their children to books and films that they find objectionable. I also read "The DaVinci Code" and found the book an enjoyable fiction romp. Now the Catholic church has decreed that I'm in a state of mortal sin for doing that, although I have to wonder how that works since I read the book before the edict came down. My point is that my faith was unaffected by reading a work of fiction. I can separate the two, and even use the work of fiction to further define my own faith by allowing it to force me to research the basis of my beliefs. By reading Harry Potter together, and discussing the elements in relationship to faith, I helped Megan develop her own sense of discernment.

DOakley said...

Well said, Lisa. As I have done with my son and will do with my little one.

I think teaching them to think for themselves is more important than sheltering them from whatever they might come across.

Katie C said...

Brilliant article! It's a wonderful way to learn about one another, through books and reading. I'm looking forward to getting to know your fiction, Lisa. Again wonderful article. I loved it when you read out loud and now on the page. I'll see you in group.