New York Times article
There’s a lot of buzz in the mainstream press right now claiming that Harry Potter books have not changed the reading habits of a generation–that kids slow down in their reading as they get older in just the same way they did before.
First, I’m not sure I entirely believe it. I think the Harry Potter books clearly introduced a generation of readers to the idea that reading could be worth a certain amount of effort, and that all that practice has to have paid off in their reading skills. There’s just no way to measure what they would have been like without Harry.
But it also strikes me–and I’ll be the first to admit I’m prejudiced on this subject–that when the whole Harry phenomenon got taken over by the bookstores, some kids lost their chance to become introduced to the library as the source for other books that they might like too. After the second book came out and was SO phenomenally popular, bookstores jumped on the bandwagon in a huge way. Our library Harry Potter parties went from being crammed with excited attendees to having okay attendance, but not more than most other programs. The buzz was all with the midnight parties at the bookstores.
Libraries can’t compete with the consumer appetite to get the next new thing NOW, and bookstores can. But it’s a shame that some kids who might have found their way to the library through the Harry Potter craze got sidetracked into stores instead. I can’t help thinking it might have made a difference for the kids to have formed relationships with library staff that might have helped them find their way to other books they might have liked just as well. Of course there are some wonderful bookstore staffs, but I will put a dedicated children’s librarian up against most of them any day. Like I said, I’m prejudiced that way.