Strolling down the Mall in Washington, D.C., I overheard the good-natured argument of the family walking behind us. "But you've already read that book eight times!" the exasperated mother was saying to her daughter. Amidst the grandeur of the nation's capital, with its monuments and fine museums, this mother and child were focused on a topic of greater interest at the moment: Harry Potter.
In case you've been absent from the planet recently, Harry Potter is the bespectacled young hero of a series of books by Britain's J. K. Rowling. The books follow orphan Harry from his unfortunate first ten years as the ward of a despicable aunt and uncle to his enrollment at a school for wizards and the exciting and harrowing adventures that follow.
The captivating series is almost as popular with adults as it is with children. Adults purchased enough hardcover editions of the children's books -- Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire -- to catapult them onto the New York Times best-seller list.
Although the books have raised the concern of a small but vocal minority, who cite the sometimes violent content, evil characters, and use of witchcraft as cause for alarm, they have, for the most part, been enthusiastically embraced by parents as well as by the educational community.
Are you interested in incorporating Harry into your classroom? Below are two terrific sites that provide insight into the books' lingo, plots, and characters, and offer classroom activities and discussion guides.
"It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends." (The Sorcerer's Stone, page 306)
"It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities." (The Chamber of Secrets, page 333)
"You think the dead we loved ever truly leave us? You think that we don't recall them more clearly than ever in times of great trouble? You know, Harry, in a way, you did see your father last night. You found him inside yourself." (The Prisoner of Azkaban, pages 427-428)
The site also features an interview with J. K. Rowling and a free Harry Potter screensaver (Windows and Mac versions). Students will enjoy playing Wizard Challenge, an interactive Harry Potter trivia game and visiting the Discussion Chamber, from which they can submit their answers to such critical thinking questions as: In the second task of the Triwizard Tournament, contestants had to try to recover the thing that they would miss the most if it were gone forever. Who or what is most important to you?