The publication of the seventh and final Harry Potter book this summer promises to be a major cultural event. It may also be a good time to consider the book’s educational impact. In a 2006 survey by Scholastic and Yankelovich, more than half of kids who identified themselves as Harry Potter readers responded that they had not previously read for fun, and 65 percent said that reading the Potter books had helped them improve in school. (Their parents agreed, only more so.) The study also found that the books had the greatest impact on the reading habits of boys. Library media specialists say the books comprise a unique combination of qualities—including kid-centric themes and accessible but not dumbed-down prose—that help draw young readers in. The popularity of the books may also have created an unlikely a sort of peer pressure. According to the Scholastic/Yankelovich study, many students said that they read the Harry Potter books, in part, to be a part of the “in” crowd. “When I was in kindergarten,” said a current 6th grader, “I saw a bunch of people reading them, so I pretended to read them even though I couldn’t read.”
A version of this news article first appeared in the Web Watch blog.