Facebook Twitter

Reading for the joy of it

SHARE Reading for the joy of it

As the clock inched toward midnight, they stood in long lines. Children of all ages happily endured the drawn-out wait so they could be among the first to purchase, and then immerse themselves, in "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire."

Imagine, throngs of people reading a 752-page book simply because they want to. There's no extra credit to act as an incentive. There's no book report due Monday or the threat of a pop quiz. Imagine, if you will, people reading for the sheer joy of it.

Consider the possibilities: Youths actively engaged in a non-passive activity that stretches their imagination and sharpens their command of the written and spoken word. Contemplate a good portion of a generation hooked on reading.

This is not to suggest that J.K. Rowling's series of Harry Potter books are the end-all. Consider them more as a jumping-off point. Once children experience the thrill of reading, they'll begin to explore the universe of fine literature. This "addiction" will likely improve their performance in school and stir a lifelong love of books.

Instead of passively parked in front of the television set watching mind-numbing programs, playing video games or whiling away the hours cruising the Internet, thousands of children have been swept up in Harry hype. As fads go, this one would appear to be, well, productive.

And yet there are critics. Some condemn this enchanting series about an orphaned 11-year-old wizard because it glorifies the "dark side." Others question its literary merit.

Yet no one can argue that Rowling has an unbridled success on her hands with books that are not only a challenge to read because of their length but because of their thought-provoking content. In a day and age when far too many writers are cynical, Rowling has allowed herself and Harry Potter readers to frolic in the mystical world of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

If there's a downside to the Harry Potter craze, it's that it's not enough in this commercially driven world to simply savor the written word. A movie is in the works and a line of Harry Potter products — everything from action figures to underpants — is coming to a store near you.

This rank commercialization was inevitable given the unprecedented 5.3 million copies of "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" now in print. It is regrettable that the images of Harry Potter aren't best left in the imaginations of the tens of millions of Rowling devotees.

There's considerable irony in this saga. A series of books that has sparked a love of reading among children will be reduced to the very thing the printed word has been losing ground to.

The only hope is that Harry Potter fans will come to know the disappointment many avid readers experience when their favorite books become the stuff of movies. Generally speaking, it's a letdown, which is all the more reason to read a well-written book.