The letters sound familiar:
...telling me about kids whose lives have been changed. They always say the kid hated to read - just like me - and after he read my book he is a reading machine. It makes me feel great.
Although it may resemble the type of letter parents might send to JK Rowling, praising the effect her Harry Potter novels have had on children and their improved reading habits, it was actually sent to juvenile sports fiction author Dan Gutman. As fellow author John H. Ritter notes, sports fiction can also encourage young readers with its world of dreams.
Harry Potter plays the sport of Quidditch, but the best-selling books about the young wizard aren't classified as juvenile sports fiction. Like magic, J.K. Rowling's books have transcended the juvenile genre, drawing in the young-at-heart as well. They also have rekindled a reading passion in children who were drawn away from the printed page by video games and computer fun.
"There's something in Harry Potter that just clicked on a primal level," said Ritter, author of three popular baseball novels for young readers. "To try and duplicate that is real difficult. But I wouldn't rule it out in sports fiction, because that's a world of dreams as well.
"People love dreaming, and when dreams come true. You just have to have those right elements, and it's hard to be sure what they are."
In terms of offering realistic stories that teach lessons, the genre is stronger than ever, thanks to authors such as Ritter, Walter Dean Myers, Chris Crutcher, Robert Lipsyte, Roy MacGregor, Will Weaver, Carl Deuker and - for younger readers - Dan Gutman.
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