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Archive for Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Ready to read

Local readers are expected to line up to read about the latest Harry Potter adventure.

June 18, 2003

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It's "Late Night with Harry."

You don't have to be a Harry Potter fan to get excited about any book for young people that inspires a party to celebrate its midnight release.

You just have to appreciate the fact that children and their parents can be that enthusiastic about reading a book, any book.

At least one local bookstore will sponsor a late-night party Friday night leading up to the official unveiling of "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" at 12:01 a.m. Saturday. Others plan special events on Saturday.

All this fuss over an almost-900-page book about a character who has attracted a huge following among adults and young people.

Sure, some of that fuss has been fueled by the Harry Potter movies, but the books came first and most loyal fans don't want to wait for the movie; they want to read the story now.

In an age so dominated by passive audio and video entertainment, it's a joy to see a book draw so much attention -- especially if that book is attractive to young people.

Reading is so fundamental and yet schools and parents continue to struggle to find ways to encourage children to read for pleasure. A story out of Sterling, Kan., this week told of a new project at the public library, which purchased 50 "graphic novels" to help attract young readers.

The novels are essentially thick comic books with lots of illustrations and narration. Some, but not all of the novels also borrow comic book characters and themes. Studies on the benefits of these books no doubt have been done, but it doesn't take a genius to figure out the appeal of a giant comic book with a title like "Spider-Man" or "Star Wars" to a young reader. Such books may even entice children who wouldn't normally think about reading for pleasure.

Some reading purists might think using graphic novels, or even regular comic books isn't an academically sound strategy for children, but if they get children to read, the approach can't be all bad.

Summer is a great time for children to enjoy outdoor activities, but it's also a wonderful opportunity to spend some time developing a skill that will serve them well throughout their lifetimes.

So, if you see some lines forming around Lawrence this weekend, don't be surprised if they're heading to the nearest bookstore.

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