Reading is critical for life as an adult. Sometimes reading is simple. A Grocery list. Sometimes it is just for short reading fun. Reading the text on the Springbok mobile application. Other times it is for long reading fun. A long multi-volume series book. Not to mention reading to learn new knowledge, for simple knowledge of “how to knit” to complex knowledge of “how to insulate a wind turbine, so it does not freeze”.
Moving from letters to words to sentences to paragraphs to finally 1-2 page short stories
But no matter what your end reading goals are, the beginning is always the same. A child moved from learning their ABCs, to CSV words, to single syllable words, to multisyllable words. The kids move to sentences, to paragraphs, to short stories.
To get to this level, I would start with Hooked on Phonics and memorization of the 220 Dolch words plus 90 Dolch nouns. Afterwards, my students moved onto Advanced Hooked Phonics to master multi-syllable words and reading of short stories that are both fiction and non-fiction.
Progressing from short stories to chapter books
After my students became comfortable reading 1-2 page short stories, they worked on transitioning to chapter books. “Captain Underpants” worked well for this process (2nd grade reading level). These books are funny, simple, enjoyable for 2nd graders and above. They are a good place to start.
After “Captain Underpants”, my students moved onto “Magic Treehouse”. These books are historical fiction, so they continue building their reading skills while being exposed to a wide variety of topics. More topics, more specialized vocabulary.
My students usually read these books during 3rd grade.
Moving onto Harry Potter
After finishing the “Captain Underpants” series and the “Magic Treehouse” series, my children were ready to begin reading Harry Potter during 4th grade.
Harry Potter breaks the glass ceiling in terms of the length of children’s books
If you ask, “How long is a children’s chapter book”, you will generally get an answer along the following:
- Early reading – 1500 words
- Chapter books – 4000 – 15000 words (60 pages)
- “Captain Underpants” – 144 pages, but includes lots of pictures
- “Magic Treehouse” – 80 pages
- Young Middle Grade Chapter Book – 45000 (180 pages)
- Upper Middle Grade Chapter Book – 65000 (260 pages)
- Young Adults Chapter Book – 85000 to 95000 (340 pages – 380 pages)
- New Adult Chapter Book – 65000 to 85000 (260 pages – 340 pages)
Now let’s look at how long the Harry Potter books are:
- Harry Potter 1 – (243 pages)
- Harry Potter 2 – (352 pages)
- Harry Potter 3 – (435 pages)
- Harry Potter 4 – (752 pages)
- Harry Potter 5 – (896 pages)
- Harry Potter 6 – (652 pages)
- Harry Potter 7 – (784 pages)
J.K. Rowling took the belief that a “good children’s book” has to be around 250 pages and blew it out of the water. J.K. Rowling proved to children, parents, and educators that children, when given access to a good (or multiple in this case), that there is no real limit to the length of the story.
J.K. Rowling is a copycat
Many people believe that J.K. Rowling’s books will not become classics, because she copied most of her ideas from other sources.
That statement is true, but not true at the same time. Yes, J.K. Rowling did copy a lot of her ideas from other sources. But given that her target audience was children, that is not necessarily a bad thing.
Magical Creatures and Mythology
All of the magical creatures that exist in the Harry Potter world come from other mythologies: unicorns, goblins, dwarfs, basilisks. But this did not take away the value of these stories. It actually added to them. Once my son realized that all of these creatures came from other stories, he wanted to know more about them.
What were these original stories? How did these creatures in the Harry Potter books compare to the creatures in the original stories? In other words, the Harry Potter stories became a springboard to more stories and more ideas and more discussion and more learning.
Meaning of the Spells
All the spells from Harry Potter are Latin. Although my students did not decide to study Latin, it was good to know that if the kids memorized these spells, they were just memorizing real Latin words put together into phrases and sentences. In other words, there is no real magic. It is just talking in a foreign language.
Orphan boy who finds out he is special and other common story themes
Different versions of the same story is a “Learning objective”. There are numerous versions of Cinderella and the Flood Story and the story of creation and a million other different stories.
Orphan stories, good vs. evil, action and adventure, romance, intermarriage. When talking about categories of stories they are called genres. But not all stories have just one story. Sometimes they can have an overarching story and then sub-stories. Each of those stories can belong to one or more genres. And even main genres can have sub-genres.
In other words, J.K. Rowling borrowing common themes from other stories does not take away from the books, because these can be used as a springboard to other literature which will lead to more reading and more discussions and more thought.
What is the goal of literature and what is the goal of a classic?
The most obvious goal of literature is to create a story that people enjoy reading. But good literature, classical literature, creates thought and discussion and soul searching and growth.
Do J.K. Rowling’s books accomplish that goal? Does the reader enjoy reading the book? Yes. Does it create thought? Yes. Does it create discussion? Yes. Does it create soul search? Yes. Does it create growth? Yes.
So if you have not yet read these books for yourself, take a timeout, check them out from your local library, and enjoy yourself. Better yet, find a reading buddy and use the books as a springboard to discuss, debate, soul search, and grow.