How reading Harry Potter with my daughter has made me fall back in love with storytelling
When I was about 20 years old, I lived with four other second-year university students in a shared apartment.
We were all experiencing freedom for the first time so you can imagine what the place looked like. We acted like we were men but, in reality, we were still only boys.
One day, I walked into the kitchen to one of my roommates sitting at the table, reading a book. He was gripped, letting out audible signs of shock and laughter.
I asked him what he was reading.
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, came his enthusiastic reply.
Being the boys that we were, we all poked fun at him for reading this ‘kids’ book’.
“You have no idea what you’re talking about!”, he protested.
And it turns out he was completely right.
Hooked on Harry P.
Now, close to 20 years later, I’m finally reading that same book. I'm now a grown man (I think!) with children of my own.
Every night for the past week—once she’s gotten into her pyjamas and brushed her teeth—my 7-year-old daughter seeks me out.
“Daddy!”, she calls. “Time for Harry P!”
Since she started to learn to read in school, I've been trying to introduce her more to novels. Some she liked, others she asked to stop reading.
But, till now, nothing has come close to the narrative firepower of Harry Potter.
The story swings meticulously from plot point to plot point. The characters are crisp, their aspirations clear. Clues as to what will happen next are deliciously planted so that—when you come across one—you can’t help but be jolted.
Now I understand why my flatmate all those years ago was hooked because I too am now hooked.
Stories captivate us
Stories tap into our innate desire to know. They trigger our curiosity, which then pulls us further and further in.
What will happen next?
We watch as our protagonist is launched head-first into a journey of ups and downs. Through their struggles, we start to empathize with them; and in the best stories, we even end up cheering them on!
That’s because, fundamentally, stories are about change.
We witness a shift that occurs within our protagonist; they start the story as X and finish it as Y. And seldom is that process painless—otherwise it would be a dull story.
Their transformation becomes an inspiration to us.
It forces us to consider that, perhaps, we too have the strength to surmount the challenges we face in our own lives. They make us feel the universality of our plight.
No matter the details of the story, it ends up being about us.
In The Philosopher’s Stone, the challenges the characters face are fairly obvious, but that’s okay.
It’s giving my daughter hooks she can connect to: the desire for friendship, the fear of the school bully, the mentorship—or not—of adults.
Through this story, she is learning that what she is going through is experienced, not just by her, but by everyone.
Nurture future readers
Reading to my daughter feels very familiar.
It brings back memories of being in my mother’s arms, looking up at pages full of black letters and listening to story after story. Those are moments that put me on my path as a reader.
Now, the moment of transfer is not lost on me.
I have the privilege to be one of my daughter’s guides into the world of books. What will she end up reading in her life? Which stories will move her? Which will change her?
That will be her journey as a reader.
For now, though, no matter the twists and turns Harry Potter takes us on, I am deeply grateful that we get to share this great story together.
As she cuddles up next to me, I pull a blanket over ourselves and adjust the reading light onto the page.
Then we excitedly read what’s about to happen next.