It is safe to say that very few writers have influenced and shaped people’s desire to read more than J.K. Rowling did with the Harry Potter series. These books (and subsequent) movies came out as I was graduating from college and to be honest, I never had any interest in kid wizards.
Flash Forward (just a few…ok a lot of years), Nolin loved to read books. He can fly through a stack of books to the point that we have worn out our library card (literally I had to get a new one recently). So I thought what would be a better way to spend time with him, then begin reading the Harry Potter books and watching the movies.
Shortly before he started third grade, we picked up the first book. Our nightly bedtime routine shifted to the two of us passing the book back and forth and reading to each other. This quickly changed to me reading to Nolin (and then basically to myself) while he played with legos. We made it to the sorting hat before I realized that this was going nowhere.
Nolin became adamant that he did not like Harry Potter, and he only wanted to watch the movies and would never read the books. I was definitely disappointed because even with my short exposure, I realized that I really enjoyed the books. However, I held firm that we would never watch the movies until we read the books.
In third grade, Nolin had “the” teacher who changed the way he felt about school, and who I am confident will be the biggest influence on his scholastic career. She was a huge Harry Potter fan, and this year fully decorated her room in a Hogwarts theme, but for all her influence and the admiration that Nolin has for her, this didn’t change his desire to read the books.
Then while visiting a National Park, Nolin picked up a stuffed otter and he was looking for a name. As a brilliant individual, I came up with Harry P. Otter and thought this would be the connection (I mean come on, I feel like every otter should be named Harry P.). Nope, the otter was quickly renamed to the much more original Oscar, and we were no closer to starting the books.
Then came his ninth birthday. We got season passes to Universal Studios, and my parents gave him some Harry Potter lego sets. Suddenly the interest began to grow. Nolin thought that this was his idea, but it was pretty well orchestrated by Jenn and I, and to add the icing to the cake, I offered to give Nolin $5 for each book he finished.
It was on…but this time we tried something a little different. We got the audiobooks narrated by Jim Dale and started that way.
We were both hooked. As this event went on, some things have changed. We eventually added the books to read along with the audiobooks, and the $5 per book was dropped and turned into an interactive wand at the completion of all the books.
I will admit, it hasn’t always been easy, some of our bedtime routines turned into 3-hour events as we “just want to make it a little further”. But it has been an awesome bonding opportunity for the two of us. We read/listen to the books, discuss theories, watch the movies and then discuss the differences.
All of this while working towards a day at Universal, where we totally immerse ourselves in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and practice every spell with Nolin’s new wand.
As we approached the final chapter, there was a sense of dread in the air, not for the characters, but that this time we had shared would soon be over. As the final word was read, Nolin began to cry, and I realized exactly how lucky I was to have had this time with him.
Finally, the day arrived, and we started the journey with a special present for Nolin…a Gryffindor robe. We immediately went to Islands of Adventure and visited Olivander’s Wand Shop. We watched the presentation show, and after about 20 minutes Nolin decided his wand was not here. So we hopped on the Hogwarts express and headed over to Universal.
As we walked into the second wand shop, we got pulled aside and Nolin was able to get a private wand show, which was amazing. Then an employee spent over 30 minutes with Nolin explaining every wand as he made his final decision. She absolutely loved seeing how important this was to him, and the care that he was taking in making his selection.
He now had his wand and we were off to spend the day walking around with Nolin practicing spells around the park. We also stayed late that night to watch the Dark Arts at Hogwarts Castle show. It was a long day, but it was an amazing way to celebrate the completion of approximately 1,090,739 words; 4,100 pages; 199 chapters; 117 hours and 14 minutes (audiobooks); 17 hours and 14 minutes (movies); 7 books; and 8 movies to become part of the amazing wizarding world of Harry Potter.
Thank you, J.K. Rowling and Universal Studios for creating this opportunity for my family!