Can 'Harry Potter' save reading in the U.S.?

  July 18, 2005 at 4:44 PM ET
  Geri     HPANA (via U.S. News)
  harry potter and the half-blood prince, half-blood prince, book 6

With the release of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince breaking all the record books an interesting article that will appear in U.S. News magazine next week asksopens in new window: “Can the teenage wizard turn a generation of halfhearted readers into lifelong bookworms?”

The article wonders if all the electronic forms of entertainment that are in our society actually dissuades people from reading books. In fact in a study by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) in 2002 found that adult reading rates dropped 10 percent in the past decade amongst 18 to 24 year-olds.

According to Cathy Denman, a middle school media specialist in Florida who chairs the young adult booklist for the International Reading Association (IRA), an organization for literacy professionals:

Kids who hadn't picked up a book in years unless they'd been forced to were reading the series and then asking me for more books like it. For the first time for them, a book was as exciting as a video game.

The article also questions whether peer-pressure plays a part in the hype of the Harry Potter books and how children are intimated by the size of the books and will not crack one open until they can actually understand it as well as carry it.

The article ends with the wish that other authors learn that children, even with all of their attention grabbing electronic equipment, will still enjoy an good old-fashion book.

What Rowling has managed to do, with the help of avid fans and clever marketers, is bring attention to the fact that children are not a lost cause. The reading crisis in America is real--and too big for Harry Potter alone to conquer. But the lesson of his success is clear: Twenty-first-century youngsters may live in an era where a mouse is a more natural tool than a pencil, and flashy images are just a remote-control click away, but they can still enjoy reading an old-fashioned book.

But if this weekends sales of Half-Blood Prince are any indication the Harry Potter books do in fact encourage reading.


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