Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. By JK Rowling.

Marketing has such an influence these days that my younger son (known on this blog as R) has been obsessed with Harry Potter for about a year without being familiar with the story or characters. We have an agreement that we’ll read the books together and after we’ve finished each one then we can watch the film of it, then move onto the next book. He’s only five so I’m hoping this will spread it all out somewhat so he’s as close to seven as possible by the time we reach the scarier stuff. I am also a believer in always trying to read the book of something before watching the screen version if you can. It’s better to build up your own mental pictures first.

Having read them more than a decade ago, it was a joy to start again, this time with a five year old’s interjections enhancing the experience: “oh mummy, I think this is going to be a good bit, I can just tell”, “why is Hermione so bossy? I think she’s like you because you’re bossy”, a twenty minute in-depth (yet inconclusive) discussion of what houses the sorting hat would put us in, and my personal favourite “do centaurs do person poos or horse poos?”

They’re at that age where magic and reality are indistinguishable and R is utterly convinced that he will be going to Hogwarts when he’s finished his current school. At random points in the day he will keep coming up to me in a panic saying “I forgot the spell for making the feather float!” or “do you think we can go and buy my owl today?”

He was so into the story and had excellent recall. Even if we missed a day he would still remember what had happened and exactly where we were up to. I think I need to up my game as a reader though. I haven’t done that much ‘out loud’ reading for years and I could only really manage distinct voices for one or two characters. I also shamefully let the side down when I started blubbing at the end. When Dumbledore gives Neville those 10 points it always gets me. R looked at me in disgust “mummy are you actually crying?”.

Reading is the best lesson and the best gift for kids. I had to make a diversion to explain that Diagon Alley is a pun. So he now sort of knows what a pun is, and it was quite a few days later when we were doing a wordsearch and he said “mummy, that one is done diagonally, like in Diagon Alley”. He also now knows the difference between duel and jewel thanks to this book.

Having worried that the kids just weren’t ready I now realise I was wrong. We are eagerly awaiting the next book.

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