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Harry Potter and the Magic of Reading

It can be very difficult to make a person love to read. Most times, a person must find a particular book or series that really speaks to that individual to ignite an interest in reading. Unfortunately, for some this never happens. For myself, however, I can distinctly remember the series that spoke to me and made me the avid reader that I am today: Harry Potter. The Harry Potter series taught me to love and enjoy reading.

I was first exposed to the series in fourth grade. Before this point, I could read if I had to (such as for school), but I never read for fun. Fourth grade also brought about another change. Because of my mom’s new job, my sister and I would have to wait at the local YMCA before school, and ride the bus from there. I did not enjoy this arrangement at all. Every day, my sister and I would wake up around six thirty, while it was still dark and chilly outside. After breakfast, we would drive over to the Y, which was located about five minutes away. The streets were deserted, and the only sounds I ever heard were the tires on the pavement and the occasional click of the turn signal.

As we pulled up to the long, low yellow building set apart for summer camps and before or after school care, I would be filled with a feeling of dread. I could never find anything to do. Most of the other kids, including my sister, would just sleep on the uncomfortable couches and chairs that crunched every time someone moved and gave off the unpleasant odor of bleach. I was, and still remain, incapable of falling back asleep once I am awake.

Soon, I settled into a routine; every day, I would walk around the large, very open room that amplified every sound to a very conspicuous echo, especially when it was quiet, searching for something to do that would relieve the never-ending boredom. I was conscious of the attendants, many of whom were college-aged girls, watching me, and I tried hard to blend in, to cover up my shuffling footsteps and the loud, obnoxious scraping and clanking made every time I picked up an item to examine it, but they echoed throughout the room. After completing this circuit two or three times, I would go off and sit by myself, usually over by the tables and hard chairs set apart for reading, and stare at the pale yellow walls, listening to the hum of the fluorescent lights above, watching the hands on the clock move ever so slowly. Even when the other kids woke up (again), I would keep to myself; I was very shy back then.

My mornings continued in this fashion for about a month or so. At this time, my mom, after having them recommended by a co-worker, rented the first two Harry Potter films. As we watched the films, I became enthralled with the magical world that J.K. Rowling had created. I remember sitting on the floor at the foot of the couch staring intently at the television, knowing that I wanted to know more of the story. And so it came to pass on the following Monday that while looking through some books at the Y that I found it: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. It was as if a light bulb had flicked on in my head. I picked up the book, gazing intently, yet somewhat hesitantly at the cover, moved to the nearest table, and began to read. I could tell the novel had been on the shelf for a while, as it smelled slightly musty, and the spine of the book creaked every time I turned a page, but it did not matter. Within the first chapter, I was hooked.

Over the next few months, my favorite obsession was Harry Potter. I would read the books before school every morning, go to school, then go home and talk to anyone who would listen about Harry Potter. Over the next month or two, I read the first four Harry Potter novels. I soon came to a dilemma; the Y had only the first four novels. So I began a tradition that I still carry on to this day, which is re-reading books that I have already read and enjoyed. I must have read those four at least twice, until my parents caught on and bought me the first five for Christmas. Unlike the Y’s books, mine were new; they had that crisp smell of new paper and all of the pages were straight, and the covers were not bent.

I faced another major problem after finishing book five; books six and seven were not published, so I would have to wait to read more Harry Potter. However, I made a choice that I keep doing to this very day, a choice that I am always glad that I made. I chose to read a different series. While this may not sound like a milestone, but for me, at this time, it was. Not only was I reading just because there was nothing else to do or because I had seen the movie, for the first time, I was reading something because I wanted to. This made all the difference. Over the course of the next decade, I read dozens of books, books of all kinds: thrillers, mysteries, fantasies, biographies, the classics. My own personal library at home holds true to this testament; two whole bookcases stand in my room, jam-packed with books.

Little did I know it, but reading the Harry Potter series, and, later, numerous other novels, has left its mark on me. I am now a very fast reader, able to not only read the words quickly, but process and respond to them equally fast. I take more enjoyment out of reading, and I feel it has helped my vocabulary grow. I also believe that my love of reading inspired me to excel in school, instead of just getting by. For a while, I wanted to be an author, soon found out that writing is much harder than reading. Furthermore, by branching out and reading new things, I learned to try new things. I also started to socialize more, partly because I knew other people were reading the same books, which gave us talking points and areas of common interest. I met some of my closest friends by talking to them about books. I owe a lot to the Harry Potter series. It has turned me into a cultured person and helped transform me into the person I am today. Not bad for something I read just because there was nothing else to do.