Reading & Literacy Opinion

Going Back to Hogwarts After All These Years

By Starr Sackstein — August 01, 2016 3 min read
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There’s a montage of memories that wash over me every time there’s a reference to Harry Potter now. It’s not just a name to me, he’s representative of a large part of my life and a commitment to a world that I’ve dragged my son into as well.

Aside from my silly Potter utterances or my insistence that I’m a witch to all the Muggles who refuse to accept this assertion, JK Rowling‘s series marked a timeline in my life that I’ve had a hard time letting go of.

To say I was disappointed after finishing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the last Potter book, would be an understatement. (And for those of you as attached to the series as I am, don’t worry, I’m not spoiling anything in this post.)

So when the new story was announced, I couldn’t help but swell with the same enthusiasm I once had, standing in lines at midnight, spending full days reading until I was done. Laughing out loud or sobbing, flipping the pages of some of my favorite books.

This is one of the special things about reading that few other experiences share. As readers, we are able to go anywhere, fall in love, feel sad or become whatever it is we hope vicariously through the worlds the authors create.

As a literature teacher, it is my great pleasure to try and turn students onto books in this way by getting them deeply attached to characters, sending them back in time, empathizing with villains and hopefully, grow as people as a result of it.

For every child who says he or she doesn’t like to read, there’s a reason and as educators, we must work hard to figure out the reason and then place the just right book in that child’s hand that changes everything. For me the first book I truly loved as a kid was Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger. It was 9th grade and I could empathize with Holden as he recognized so much of the inhumanity in the world.

Ironically, when I revisited Catcher as an adult, I found myself siding more with his teachers and less with him as the context for my connection had changed. As I reread I found myself saying, “why did I like this book so much?” I get it though. The same way I understand why so many students love Looking for Alaska by John Green.

Strangely, despite the adolescent qualities of many of the Potter characters and depending on my mood, my intolerance for Harry’s inability to see how lucky he is, I’m still in love with this world. Severus Snape has proven to be one my favorite characters of all of time and his death in the seventh book shreds me. As a matter of fact, if I catch the part of the movie right after he dies, when Harry goes to the Pensieve and the truth is revealed, I have to watch. That isn’t even an exaggeration. I literally MUST attend to the moment. And in the same way I cry even still at the movie Beaches, or Forrest Gump, I weep... every time.

So I was excited to sit down and read the new book Harry Potter and The Cursed Child, and re-engage with the world. For the last few years, I’ve been mildly sated with Pottermore and the crumbs I was getting from JK Rowling there, but this was a day long excursion that took me back and has of course left me wanting more.

They always leave me wanting more. This is the mark of great writing for me. This is why I reread the series (and a few others) and rewatch the movies. I can’t get enough.

It’s writing like this and others, that made me want to be an English teacher and writer. It’s writing like this that helps me connect to my students and stay relevant. It’s a tremendous opportunity when we see students carrying books with them that they read for independent reading to ask them questions, engage in dialogues and to read what they read to get to know them better.

As the world is growing increasingly more technological and folks claim people are losing attention spans, we need to focus on the words and experiences that connect us and really great literature does.

Are you planning on reading the new Harry Potter? What did you think? If not, what literature gets you excited? Please share

The opinions expressed in Work in Progress are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.