Since practically every muggle on the planet is buzzing about the final Harry Potter installment arriving at midnight tomorrow, I thought I'd point out an interesting subgenre of the Potter hype: what effect has the Harry Potter series had on the reading patterns and habits of children? Also, what has been the series' overall impact on children's publishing as a whole?
This topic is mulled over in this interesting article from today's Washington Post. Often mentioned in these stories is Scholastic's own study on the impact that Harry, Ron and Hermoine have had on young readers. The Post also has an intresting online discussion on this topic here. (You may need to register, but it's free!)
I found the most intriguing concept in the article to be a comment about "postive social pressure" to read the Potter books, which begs the question: is there a lot of "negative social pressure" out there regarding kids and reading? I know my 11-year-old bookworm hears it. Is reading considered cool for today's kids? My daughter anwers with an emphatic "NO!" Is it uncool to be seen reading or carrying a book? "YES!" says daughter, "IT'S CONSIDERED TOTALLY UNCOOL!" The subtle and not-so-subtle pressure that swirls around children reading for fun deserves some looking into.
Another thing: Are the 61% of boys and 41% of girls who have read the hero of Hogwarts books, but who weren't reading for fun before picking up a Harry book, actually reading anything else besides the Harry Potter tomes? Or are these kids simply 100% Harry? That's hard to say with any degree of certainty. But speaking as a children's book author, I say any talk in the popular culture about a book—any book—is a good thing . . . and anything that brings traffic into bookstores is good for EVERYBODY.
Thoughts? Has Potter cast a spell on your young readers? Doesn't a chocolate frog sound good right now?