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Harry Potter Time

Raise your hand if you never get tired of reading your kid the same picture book for the billionth time. Yeah, I didn't think so.


I have no more patience for that nonsense than any other mom, so I'm very grateful to have a child who loves "scary" things, like favorite movie Spirited Away (since age three) and creepy tales told in the dark with a flashlight. This preference has broadened our bedtime story repertoire immensely.

The summer that Nux Gallica was three and a half, I decided to try reading her the first chapter of Harry Potter. Evil wizard serial killer? Child abuse? Giant on a flying motorcycle with candy in his pocket? Yes, I questioned this decision to myself. But whatever, it's literature. Best she encounters dark concepts in the safe realm of fantasy storytime with Mommy before she hears about them in the RL, right? I read something about how when children read about traumatic fictional events and characters overcoming them, it generates connections in their brains that build resilience for when a real-life hardship occurs. OK, sold.

I chose the date of Harry's "actual" birthday to give it a try, just to add some magic to the experience. And Nux loved it--even though I was reading from my good old-fashioned copy without all those fancy new edition color illustrations!

From then on, we have been reading Harry's saga in "Harry Potter time"--that is, according to the dates of the events in the books. Right now we're on the second book, still reeling from the terrible events following Sir Nicholas de Mimsy Porpington's deathday party. 

The Harry Potter series is especially amenable to this practice because J.K. Rowling took such care to orient the reader precisely in time as the stories move along. When an exact date isn't given, I make a guess, calculating the Thursday after three more weeks have passed or whatever is indicated, and I pencil in the next reading night's date in the margin.

Reading the stories in Harry Potter time lends magic to the stories because it makes each reading a special occasion, ties the seasons and holidays in the story to what's happening in our real lives in the moment, and creates an enormous amount of suspense when we have to wait days, weeks, or even more than a month to find out what happens next. I find my preschooler begging me to read her another selection from an almost picture-less chapter book--"Just one page, please!"--and I look forward with glee to the day she learns to read well enough to "sneak" previews by herself. (What a great way to be naughty, eh?)

In the meantime, I allow her to choose passages or chapters we've already read to repeat as bedtime stories until we are "allowed" to read the next part. And of course, we fill in with various picture books that bore me to tears. (If I have to read Green Eggs and Ham one more friggin' time...)

All this is giving Nux motivation to learn how to read on her own and a thirst for more complex narratives. And it's fun for me to revisit a book series that I loved as a teenager and young adult.

Have you ever read a novel in its own story time, whether to a child or just on your own? How did you like it? How did it feel different from gulping the book down in one sitting (like I used to love doing before I was a mom)? Share in the comments if you think this practice gives a book special magic!

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