My grandsons grew up with Harry Potter. I bought them The Sorcerer’s Stone and read them a chapter a night. During summer vacations, with no school, they’d beg for an extra chapter in the afternoon. We went to each midnight book party and read the series together until Harry finally defeated Voldemort. Somewhere in there, we went to see each movie. It was bittersweet for me when the Harry phenomenon ended, because it pretty much parallelled my grandsons’ childhood reading years. They’re teenagers now. Too cool to go to a movie with me. They’re on to other books and lots of assigned reading. It made me think. What did I read when I was a kid?
There have always been good authors who wrote for children and YA, but I really think that today’s readers have lots more to choose from. And that’s good. There are so many other options for them to spend time on–like X-Box, Playstation, and computers that they can easily bypass books. But there’s nothing like losing yourself in a good novel. My grandsons went from Harry Potter to Suzanne Collins’ Gregor series and from those to her YA novels, starting with The Hunger Games. They read a fair amount of Rick Riordan’s The Lightning Thief series, too.
When I was in grade school, I read Laura Ingall Wilder’s Little House in the Big Woods, along with the other novels in her series. I missed the appeal of Nancy Drew and had to content myself with single titles until I hit middle school. And then I discovered James Fenimore Cooper. I fell in love with Natty Bumppo and read every book in Cooper’s Leatherstocking series. His The Last of the Mohicans took my breath away. No kid would read those today. Cooper could easily take three pages to describe a forest. But I loved those stories. I loved how unassuming Natty Bumppo was as a hero. Or at least, that’s how I remember him. When I finished those, I discovered Grace Livingston Hill and then Agatha Christie. She began my love affair with mysteries. But there was no series that I can recall that had a young adult as a hero or heroine.
When I started college, I took lots of English lit. classes, and there was no time for fun reading. Don’t get me wrong. I loved (most) of the books I was assigned to read. But they were part of the curriculum, and I was tested over them. Not the same thing as browsing through shelves at a bookstore and choosing something that piques your fancy.
The thing is, if you’re lucky enough, reading is a wonderful part of growing up. If you love it then, it could become a wonderful experience you can continue through life. Today’s kids have an abundance of writers and books to choose from. My grandsons grew up with Harry Potter. Hopefully, that experience will encourage them to read for the rest of their lives. Me? I had Natty Bumppo. And he was great!