The development of technology has significantly changed the reading habits of a young generation. However, of all the magical powers possessed, perhaps none can be compared to the strong ability to transform reading habits in the current generation that has been overtaken by technology. However, this effect does not last for long in children who grow up with the reading habits. The Harry Potter book series has been credited with the inspirational reading pleasure among the readers. However, the question that arises is whether the book series is an entertainment tool or teaching tool. As I will discuss in the next section of the paper, I think that Harry Potter book series is an entertainment tool and that is why children develop strong sensation to the book and as they grow older they tend to lose the sensation of the reading.
Harry Potter book series has very limited impact on the reading habits; thus, an entertainment tool and not teaching material. Harry Potter book series has quite a charming spell on the kids who want to feel the pleasure of the fictional stories, a character which is so common among kids (Vezzali et al., 2012). However, children tend to lose the interest in the books as they grow older. The truth about Harry Potter book series is that reading them is not a quite straightforward success story. This is why children like the fiction and magical actions in the story, but as they grow to become adults they lose the interest. Research shows that percentage of young generation that read for fun continues to drop as they grow older (Vezzali et al., 2012). Of course, one cannot deny the sensational effects that the books have for the young readers. One cannot deny the publishing sensation that the books have recorded. For instance, one of the books Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone sold approximately 325 million copies globally and 121.5 million copies in the United States alone (Rich, 2007). This is a significant sale that a book can record. However, what is worrying is the dropping number of readers especially as they grow older. One may ask, what might be the reason behind this sudden dislike of the series as one grows older. As Rich (2007) explains, the book does not have a permanent effect on children. The percentage of children declining from reading the books continues to fall at an alarming rate. Rich explains that the series has not been able to reverse the decline in reading, something that has formed a serious discussion among educators.
People have given different reasons why the reading habits of Harry Potter book series continue to decline. Among the key reasons that people have given is the fact that as children grow into adulthood they are unable to connect with the unrealistic events in the book which do not reflect their lives (Waters, 2016). According to Doughty (2013), children like magical and sensational stories like the Harry Potter book series which can explain why the series has such a strong spell on kids. However, as they grow older they tend to conform to the reality of the society and they start to like the stories that can help them relate to real life issues. Christians have argued that reading the Harry Potters books is something wrong due to the content that is in contrary to the teachings of God. Such people base their arguments on the Old Testament books such as Exodus and Deuteronomy that explains how God consistently condemned witches among the Israelites. Despite being the bestselling book series globally Harry Potter series seem to have more reproaches than its success.
The one question that stands out in this discussion is whether the book series have any significant value among readers even after looking at some of the reproaches that contribute to the declining reading habits. Of course, people have argued that Harry Potters books do have a meaningful and valuable impact on the readers who take it seriously. Research has shown that negative attitudes and prejudices can be reduced through an intergroup contact (Vezzali et al., 2015). People like to associate with the people or a group of people that he/she can identify with. However, out-groups tend to threaten the social behavior of the people who dont identify with that particular group. As Stetka (2014) explains Harry Potters book series seem to have the same role in people. The author argues that Harry Potters series seem to identify with the stigmatized groups through the experiences, events, and characters in the book. For instance, the Smuggles do not get any respect in the wizarding society because they lack any magical ability. The author further explains that in a certain study showed that Harry Potter book series improved the attitudes of students in one of the Italian High School towards the homosexuals.
Stetka explains that it is only the younger generation that is able to identify with the stories and characters in the stories. However, what about the older characters in the story? Well, as Stetka explains, based on the social cognitive theory people form their attitudes not only by following the positive relevant behaviors, but they also distance themselves from the negative behaviors. This is the reason why when children grow older they tend to lose the sensation associated with reading Harry Potters books. Older characters like Voldemort depict evil characters that according to the social cognitive theorists, no one would conform to or like to imitate. As Stetka explains, there are many factors that determine and shape the attitudes of people; for instance, family, media, peers, and religious beliefs. However, reading novels helps children deal with the living social, cultural, and psychological challenges that they experience. In one of the studies conducted by Vezzali and colleagues found that childrens attitudes can be shaped by fictional literature they read (Vezzali et al., 2015). Literature with complex and developed themes and characters help readers to identify with the prejudiced and stigmatized and adopt the perspectives that they might not consider.
Stetka (2014) further explains that fantasy may be effective in inculcating positive attitudes and eliminating the negative ones because the literary material does not feature the actual populations. Therefore, it is able to avoid the potential the political correctness, defensiveness, and sensitivities. Therefore, according to Stetka fantasy books such as Harry Potter book series can help educators and parents in teaching good values such as tolerance and empathy.
Research shows that kids below the age of 9 years like to read while the reading habit changes as they grow (Waters, 2016). According to Rich (2007), many youths are less motivated to read for pleasure, unlike their younger counterparts who find the fictional stories amazing and sensational. Even though sometimes they cannot comprehend the complex themes in such texts, children are able to relate to the younger characters that show good values. However, despite the declining reading habits technology has tried to revive the lost sensation. As Rich explains, the integration of the story in the pop-culture consciousness has greatly helped revive the reading habits. Children who dislike the books can find time to watch the film version of Harry Potter and Order of the Phoenix and other related stories in the series. However, reading habits are also influenced by the social environment. According to Rich, some educators and parents have overemphasized the types of books and stories that children should read. Therefore, children are forced to read the books that they dont like; thus, the declining percentage of reading habits. Instead of overemphasizing and dictating the kinds of literature and stories that children should read, educators need to inculcate the reading for information and not entertainment as it has been which Rich describes as misplaced goal.
In summary, despite the declining percentage of reading habits of Harry Potter book series, there is much that the novel can still inspire among children. However, I agree with the concept that parents and educators also contribute to the declining reading habits. Therefore, parents and educators need to inculcate good reading habits in children. This includes encouraging kids to read for information and not entertainment as it has been the case. Reading habits are like attitude which is highly influenced by the environment and people one interacts with. Therefore, if children can be taught the values of reading for information it will help them adopt the habit and reverse the declining habit that we see today.
Doughty, A. A. (2013). Throw the book away: Reading versus Experience in Childrens Fantasy. McFarland. Retrieved from https://books.google.co.ke/books?id=I17agT3h39kC&pg=PA112&lpg=PA112&dq=Harry+Potter+book+series:+To+read+or+not+to+read%3B+Entertainment+or+tools+for+teaching.&source=bl&ots=qkE_WwPhEv&sig=SMHqhz7wJ0eK2Ie_jCnsGBEu5qA&hl=en&sa=X&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=Harry%20Potter%20book%20series%3A%20To%20read%20or%20not%20to%20read%3B%20Entertainment%20or%20tools%20for%20teaching.&f=false
Rich, M. (2007, July 11). Potter Has Limited Effect on Reading Habits. The New York Times Online. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/11/books/11potter.html?mcubz=0
Stetka, B. (2014, September 9). Why Everyone Should Read Harry Potter: Tales of the Young Wizard instill Empathy, a study finds. Scientific American. Retrieved from https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-everyone-should-read-harry-potter/
Vezzali, L., Stathi, S., Giovannini, D., Capozza, D., & Trifiletti, E. (2015). The greatest magic of Harry Potter: Reducing prejudice. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 45(2), 105-121. Retrieved from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jasp.12279/full
Vezzali, L., Stathi, S., & Giovannini, D. (2012). Indirect contact through book reading: Improving adolescents' attitudes and behavioral intentions toward immigrants. Psychology in the Schools, 49(2), 148-162. Retrieved from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/pits.20621/full
Waters, T. K. (2016). Improving Reading: A Case Study of the Accelerated Reader Program. Gardner-Webb University. Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com/openview/0c9a7c02467c6458464ea40938f72063/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=18750&diss=y
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