Rogan was not yet 7 years old when I started reading him Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone as I settled him down at night, but he absolutely loved it. By the time we’d finished the 3rd book in the series and the first film had come out, I was no longer reading him bedtime stories, but A Tradition had been started. As each new book came out I would read a chapter a day to him downstairs on the couch, sometimes 2 if the timing was right or I was too engrossed to put it down.
As the years have passed, not only has JK Rowling’s writing improved, but so has my reading performance. My array of accents and expression give Stephen Fry a run for his money. My Snape is pure Alan Rickman, Ron is a genuine Essex lad, Professor McGonagall is Miss Jean Brodie to perfection, and my Seamus Finnigan would put a leprechaun asking for his pot of gold to shame.
Earlier in the year I started reading him the Philip Pullman “His Dark Materials” trilogy, which is truly one of the greatest sets of books ever written for people of any age. Despite the superiority of the Pullman books in style, content and vision, however, we had to put them on hold halfway through the final book when Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was released last month.
The simple fact was we dared not delay reading Harry Potter if we wanted to stand any chance of reaching the end before overhearing key plot points or the final outcome, either accidentally or maliciously by school friends or the media. Fortunately we’ve had the summer holidays to limit Rogan’s exposure to his peers who might have let slip, and we’ve managed to keep the TV to a minimum, just in case.
This weekend, we finally read the last chapters. And while we were able to sigh with relief that we’d managed to get to the end of the book without knowing in advance whether Harry lived or died, or how many of the main characters were killed off, I couldn’t help but feel a twinge of sadness at what is, in effect, the end of an era.
There’s been something quite wonderful, creating and enjoying this part of Rogan’s childhood experience. Now he’s 12 years old, I can’t imagine he’ll let me continue to read to him for much longer, but as it is, we’ve gone well beyond the time I thought he’d let me, so each extra page has been a real treat.
Despite the obvious temptation, Rogan never did secretly read ahead, which I have to say seriously impressed me. When I was his age I cannot imagine I would ever have found the patience to wait for someone to read me the next chapter, especially if the book was lying in reach. But then I didn’t have this tradition with my parents, so I can’t be sure. Maybe if such a pattern had been established I might have learned the advantages of delaying gratification a little earlier in life.