Narratives in a Digital Age
“My Life in Books”
This week, LJ Digital features essays from writers and readers, discussing stories about books that impacted their lives.
My Ten-Year Relationship with Harry Potter
By Alex Chan
My affair with books did not begin with love at first sight. Basically, I hated reading. As a five-year-old, I was very impatient in learning how to read. My Mom forced the infamous “Hooked on Phonics” onto me and had me read their “Beginner’s” books every night before I went to sleep. I stuttered through every word, trying to connect the consonant and vowel sounds and somehow turn them into real sentences.
“Thuh-thuh… guh-gurl wih-ih with the vee-oh lin?” I spat out in short breaths.
“Almost, sweetheart. It’s ‘The girl with the VI-olin,’. Not vee-olin,” my Mom said.
My parents and even my teachers thought that I might have had some sort of condition because of how long it was taking me to read. Maybe ADD or even Dyslexia. Although I was young, I think I always knew it was never because reading was hard to learn. It was because I was never reading anything that I was passionate about. I was so reluctant in reading the training books with no plot or adventure that it stalled the whole learning process. At an age where creativity and imagination is at its prime, would a bland book about a girl and her violin really catch my attention? Apparently, it didn’t meet my standards.
Once I hit the third grade, a certain teacher introduced a book to me that had the exact magic I was looking for. I honestly never heard of it before and it’s unbelievable to think that it has now become the first installment of a beloved series. My third grade teacher, Mr. Lawler, put the book in my small hands. I looked at the cover: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling. Turning to the first chapter, I saw a picture of a baby with a scar on his forehead. I was still no good with words, but visuals were a universal language. I knew this must have been the main character, Harry Potter. But how did he get his scar? Why does it say The Boy Who Lived below the picture? Hooray! I was able read the title of the first chapter! But I needed to know more.
Thus, began my ten-year relationship with Harry Potter. I finished the first book in no time. Mr. Lawler even read the second one during Read-Aloud time after I yammered on and on about how much I loved the first. After learning how to read, my mind could finally wander through the pages and create a world that could never exist in reality. I could fight a troll in a castle or ride a dragon through the skies by simply opening a book. Reading became my absolute favorite subject in school. Little did I know that my love for books would eventually lead me to my career – being a writer.
I knew I wanted to become a writer when I became a good reader. My passion for books sparked the creativity I needed to write an essay in Mr. Lawler’s class. Each essay we wrote had four categories to be graded on: Content, Organization, Voice and Punctuation. The categories were graded on a scale of one to five, five being the best. To this day, I can’t remember what I wrote my essay on, but I remember it being the first assignment I had ever on gotten all fives on. I remember standing up on my chair and fist pumping both arms once I got my essay grade back. I remember Mr. Lawler asking me to sit back down because we were still in the middle of class. I remember him smiling afterwards because he knew how much this had meant to me.
The day Mr. Lawler gave me that book was the day he opened all the doors for me. It took me down a path that transformed me into a scholar, a poet, a singer and, above all, a writer. To this day, I am still in love with words and using words to create something meaningful. To some, Harry Potter may be just a story, but what readers have gained from the books is invaluable. I stood behind Harry and his friends in their fight against evil from the age of nine to nineteen.
Growing up with these books, I saw that good can conquer evil, love can overcome hate, and hope will always outshine doubt. These lessons were all instilled in me through reading. It was so hard to say goodbye after the story ended, but our adventures will always live within the words on the pages. After my ten-year relationship with Harry Potter was over, I realized the power that words can have. I was inspired to give off the same effect through my words. I want it to be my turn in making a difference, which is why I write.
Years from now, if I ever earn the honor of having one of my stories published I hope with all my heart that it lies peacefully on sheets of paper rather than the glare of a computer screen. Although Ken Auletta’s data from his article “Publish or Perish” reveals that E-book sales have increased by a “hundred and seventy-seven percent,” I still find opening a book a more satisfying way of reading. I think back to the moment Mr. Lawler placed Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in my hands. I remember the book looking so simple, but having so much to offer in all its pages. I loved watching the amount of pages shrink as I read on because it meant I was going somewhere within the story.
If he had handed me a tablet instead of a book, I don’t know if it would have had the same effect on me as the book did. In this day and age, technology is trying to integrate multiple applications into one device.
There’s talk of including apps such as an online comments section, a map showing where characters are, a program where characters text you and much more. In other words, there will be more room for multitasking and less for your imagination to be a part of the story. In a book, there is nothing but pages. No other distractions. One needs simplicity to have room for creativity. I mean, how would Harry Potter feel if you were downloading an app in the middle of his quidditch game?