Twenty years ago I was new teacher to a lovely London school, full of truly loved, supported, happy pupils, eager to learn. It was a place in which teachers felt privileged to teach.
One day, a pupil asked me, ‘Ms Hattaway, (as I was then), my Daddy is publishing a book that I think you will really like. I love it. Do you want to read it?’ It was ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.’ I loved it. The class loved it. We read and shared and discussed and considered it often through that Year 5 year.
(I feel it important to tell you that this was Year 5. It is also important to tell you that the girl in question was a very intelligent, capable learner. She has progressed, like her older sister and brother, to huge academic success.)
I feel rather saddened when I learn of 6 and 7 year olds who are reading, or being ‘encouraged to read’ ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.’ When we first meet Harry, he is about to turn eleven, facing a move to secondary school. HIs situation with the Dursleys is untenable. He is lonely, scared, bullied and neglected. Readers who first discovered ‘Harry Potter’ twenty years ago, grew up with him. So did the complexity of text and theme; they become dark! 
Through movies, theatre, theme park and studio, Harry Potter has well and truly emerged from his cupboard under the stairs. However, to some degree, I feel that the story, the splendid story at the heart of it all, that I loved twenty years ago, can get lost.
‘Harry Potter’ has become an empire. It has also become a marker for some parents in monitoring their children’s reading. However, some children don’t like the series. Some children aren’t ready for the series. Some children are so familiar with the stories, that they don’t need the series. The series is EVERYWHERE! The magic is within the words, the craft of the storytelling, and I suggest, that like those very bright pupils of twenty years ago, young readers need to find the books when and if they are ready. Bookwagon does not stock the titles because of their ready availability, including with booksellers who do not have a vocational experience or interest in children’s reading.
There are other writers, and other series too, that we are desperate to share. A former Headteacher redirected his son toward Jenny Nimmo’s ‘Charlie Bone’ series, which, again, is very well written, magical, and has been reprinted constantly.
There are authors, like Christopher Edge, Emma Carroll, Mark Huckerby and Nick Ostler, who deserve a wider readership. Every day I realise there’s another worthy writer who I feel compelled to share with our reading audience. Today’s is Karen McCombie. Yesterday’s was Julia Green. There are not enough hours in my reading day to catch up and communicate!
However, for the record, I loved reading the ‘Harry Potter’ series. Unlike other adults who chose grey covered disguises, I read all the titles proudly, during my twenties, and have them still.
I felt tearful in the wonderful Diagon Alley construction at Orlando’s Universal Studios this year, and again, during a generous Warner Brothers’ studio visit in January.
Through that gorgeous pupil in a London school, I was lucky enough to meet the writer, J.K.Rowling, twenty years ago; a shy, humble, beautiful, captivating writer, little knowing her creation would spawn an industry. There was a hint that our revered guest would become a 21st social philanthropist during that first meeting; her eloquence, curiosity and connectedness, almost palpable.
Yesterday, J.K.Rowling tweeted:- ’20 years ago today a world that I had lived in alone was suddenly open to others. It’s been wonderful. Thank you.’
Thank you J.K. Rowling. Happy 20th birthday Harry.

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