As I'm sure you know, the final installment of the Harry Potter film series premieres tomorrow. My family is full of breathless anticipation, and I've already got Sunday matinee tickets in hand.
But as excited as we are, we're also sad to see the movie series end. It doesn't feel quite as bittersweet as finishing the final book, but we will all miss the summertime visits from Daniel, Rupert and Emma, et. al.
It's worth taking a moment to recognize how lucky we — and especially our kids — have been to be a part of the phenomenon that is Harry Potter. To experience the unfolding of a literary (and, to a lesser extent, film) classic that will live on through the generations…it's a big deal. A really big deal.
I grasped this on some level as the early movies came out, and required my son, who's now almost 12, to read each book before he saw the film version. It seemed a bit fussy at the time, but I'm so glad I did, especially when I happened upon this fantastic article in the Wall Street Journal last week. In it, Norman Lebrecht beautifully illustrates the wonder of the Harry Potter series…not just as a story, but as a historical touchpoint in children's reading habits. I'll let you read the article yourself (which I thought was so important I read it out loud to my kids), but the upshot is that these books brought reading back to kids (or kids back to reading?) at a time when no publisher thought it was possible.
AP Photo/Dawn Villella
What's more, the story as written in the books touched kids in a way the movies can't. Lebrecht makes connections to the timeless stories of Mark Twain and Charles Dickens and their themes of children experiencing hardship. He also points out the importance of the story giving children "license to judge the adult world — and find it wanting," a feature greatly watered-down in the films.
Says Lebrecht, "by rekindling the urge to read, J.K. Rowling trumped the machine-tooled dream factories."
I tried to keep my daughter (who just turned 8) from seeing the films before she read the books, but the cat was out of the bag once she saw the first movie at a sleepover. While she absolutely loves the movies, gets their significance, and will begin reading the books this year, I'm sad that her images of Hogwarts, Diagon Alley, and Godric's Hollow come from a filmmaker rather than her own imagination.
If you're one of the few parents holding out on the movies until your kids read the books, I applaud you! You're giving your kids a gift. And you're possibly kindling a love of reading that will last the rest of their lives.
If not, all is not lost! Once you and your kids see Deathly Hallows, Part 2, capitalize on mourning of the end of the film series by reading the Harry Potter book series all over again. Read it out loud as a family, even. You and your kids will treasure being reunited with Harry and company, and you will fully appreciate your presence in literary history.
Is anyone else feeling as sentimental about Harry Potter as I am? Did you or your kids read the books before seeing the movies?
Related: My experience at Universal Orlando, home of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
Also: There's a witch named Asha in J. K. Rowling's companion book, The Tales of Beedle the Bard!