Harry Potter spins the creativity wheel

When I first read "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" to my seven-year-old son, Noah, last fall, he fell head over heels into book love.

Reading the first, then second and third Harry Potter books immediately became the highlight of our days. Neither of us could wait for that peaceful time before bed reserved for reading, and neither of us had an easy time putting the book down when it was time for Noah to go to sleep.

"One more page, pleeeeze" often led to one more chapter, and on weekend mornings, we would start reading as soon as he woke up. This reading frenzy went on until we reached the last half of the third book.

This was when Noah began doling out a few pages a night in order to make the book last longer. To this day, we have not read the last five pages of the third book in the series. We can't, Noah says, until the fourth book (due out this summer) is in his hands.

Harry Potter became the main subject of Noah's conversation and imagination. After the revelation in the first book that the character who appears bad isn't necessarily the culprit, Noah was on the lookout for plot twists and turns, propelling himself into critical thinking. We re-read earlier sections of the book in order to search for missed details and clues.

When Noah wasn't gabbing about Harry Potter, he was using the books as a basis for creative playtime.

He drew the characters on cardboard and cut them out. He and his friends built their own stories around his new playthings. Harry, Hagrid, and Dumbledore did many a turn around the dining-room table.

One day, Noah announced that it was time for "someone" to make a movie out of the book. "May I use the video camera?" he asked. Then, he continued, would it be possible to sell his film to theaters so that he could make money to buy more toys?

When I told him that Time Warner had bought the film rights to the book (an interesting concept to explain to a child), he said "Well, I'll write a play." Eventually, he and his friend Rebecca settled on a Harry Potter puppet show. They created incredible drawings of the entire cast of characters on cardboard. They also drew tickets. The cost was 25 cents.

Soon after, Noah began to re-read the Potter books on his own, a quantum developmental leap. In the process of re-reading, he discovered new things, the way you do when you love and cherish a book, piece of music, or a person.

Harry Potter launched our family into an exploration of "magic" literature. We first read "Wizards Hall" by Jane Yolen, and Noah was amazed at how heavily it seemed that Rowling had borrowed from the plot of this book. This led to many a talk about how creative works are based on other creative works.

Since this was so much fun for Noah, I started a "wizard class" at school for him and his fellow second-graders. Many of the children had never even heard of Harry Potter, so I read the first book to them. Soon they were discussing Voldemort over blocks and playing Harry Potter at recess and some wrote their own wizard stories.

Every moment of this Harry Potter era has been pure joy for me - even Noah's morning ritual of messing up his hair so that it will stand up Potterlike on his head.

But contemporary life moves relentlessly fast, moments of pre-commercial childhood innocence and learning are fleeting. Not long ago, as Noah ran around the living room cradling his Charmander Pokmon ball, he cried out: "Mawwwwm, when are the toys coming out?"

"What toys?" I asked.

"The Harry Potter toys. They should be out soon."

"Maybe so," I said, thinking "I sure hope not."

"When they come out, will you buy me one, just ONE, please?" (I have no doubt that this request will multiply to many more than one).

"What about those lovely Harry Potter toys you made yourself?" I reminded him.

Noah shot me his best "most adults really don't get it" look. "They are OK, Mom, but they aren't as nice as real toys, the kind you buy."

Parents: To submit a first-person essay on your own parenting solutions, send an e-mail to home@csps.com, or write to Parenting, The Christian Science Monitor, One Norway Street, Boston, MA 02115.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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