Thank you, Ms Rowling, you're wizard

14th March 2008 at 00:00
We all know J.K. Rowling has her critics but, on behalf of English teachers everywhere, I would like to send her a big thank you.

Virtually every pupil, in every class, in every school, knows Harry Potter. Most have read all of the novels, usually more than once, while others are working through them. They have all seen the films.

What happens if you are an English teacher and you want to talk about, say, character? Which character in literature do they all know? Harry Potter.

Why do they like him? Well, there are the similarities: he's young, at school, he has family problems, peer pressure. No, it's the differences: he's a wizard, he does magic.

Well, what about genre then? Easy, it's fantasy. Or is it adventure? A school story? Teen fiction yes; but isn't it adult fiction too?

Even the creative process itself can be dealt with. Most pupils know lots about the author: her early life, her desire to write, her influences, her meticulous planning. All of these inspire young people, as well as their teachers.

The great thing for me is that I can use Harry Potter to inspire first year right through to sixth. Higher and Advanced Higher pupils have all grown up with him, and they now have the analytical and discussion skills to view everything they have ever read, or tried to read, and evaluate the experience.

We look back at books from our childhood which have helped form our reading habits. Personally, I never much liked the fantasy genre of fiction, opting instead for the gritty realism of Enid Blyton. The Middle Earth type sagas seemed to me the heavy metal of literature: heavy on demons and light on subtlety. Yet I admire the success of fantasy: the readership will stay faithful in their love for a particular writer (as I once did with Blyton), but also use him or her as a springboard to other writers, other genres, all the time reading.

Reading. It's what I want to see, and who cares what your taste is? The love of reading is the thing, with its obvious ancillary benefits.

And this is why we owe so much to J.K. Rowling and her bespectacled, scarred child-wizard. They have done more for reading than a multitude of academics, teachers or writers.

Michael Coyle, Hillhead High, Glasgow.

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