How Young Readers Day Changed My Life
I don’t remember exactly when Young Readers Day started, but I remember that, at about six or seven years of age, it was beyond enticing to me. We would get small, laminated cards with massive, neon-orange clips so that we could attach them to our backpacks. For each book we read, we would get another punch, and when the card was all full, we would get a free Pizza Hut pan pizza – a very alluring reward for young elementary schoolers. My school, like many across the country, had a variety of reading initiatives, all hoping to encourage young students to read. Whether these really ended up working or they created a generation of pizza-dependent people, I’m not sure. As for me, though, it changed my life.
My mother had always encouraged little me to give Harry Potter a try, but like any stubborn kid, I refused. I had seen a movie clip before, and the moment in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire when Wormtail slashed Harry’s arm had terrified kindergarten-aged me. That is, it did until I noticed that Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was in one of the “difficult level” book bins. Now, I may be extremely stubborn, but I am even more competitive. A determination to read on a higher level and beat my friends to the pizza prize drove me to pick up the book. That winter, I read Sorcerer’s Stone in one day, tucked away in the reading nook of my room while I was supposed to be packing. Don’t worry, though; I did end up packing: I packed the other five books and a pair of sweatpants because even seven-year-old me had her priorities straight.
Slowly and steadily, I read all of the novels. After I finished, my mother thought I was finished for good. To her, they were the kind of books you read once, enjoy, and watch the movies of when you want to reminisce. To me, they were so much more than that. As a child, I found a strong role model to whom I could relate. As an adult, I see the pages as full of wisdom to guide me through life.
Now, I could recite a myriad of statistics from studies all claiming that Potter fans are more open-minded or friendly – and trust me, I have the data (I also have a note in my school file from my sophomore English teacher warning future teachers not to let me pick my own research topics because I manage to relate them all back to Potter, but alas) – but my point here is not to bore you with tidbits about mirror neurons and double-blind studies. Instead, I wish to merely highlight how influential reading programs like Young Readers Day can be.
Young Readers Day, 100 Book Challenge, Strive for Five, or Readopoly – whatever you call them, these programs bring in young readers each year, ushering in a new generation of fans. They are the reason the Potter fandom is defined not as a generation but as an era. To celebrate this holiday, why don’t you recommend your favorite Potter novel to a young reader you know? Better yet, give them a whole set! But not yours. That’s crazy! You’ll need to reread them!