I can’t tell you what I had for lunch yesterday. is might sound hyperbolic, but I honestly and truly couldn’t tell you what I had unless I sat down and thought about it for a bit. With that in mind, I can tell you the first sentence to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, “Mr. and Mrs. Dursley of Number Four Privet Drive were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much,” without so much as a reference to my battered copy (though I of course double checked—I wouldn’t want to embarrass myself). If you shout my name within twenty feet of me, there’s about a 50/50 chance that I’ll hear you, yet I can hear someone whisper “Hogwarts” from a mile away (that one was hyperbolic). I love the Harry Potter book series for many reasons. It’s brought me friendships. It’s taught me lessons. But the main reason I love Harry Potter is because it got me to fall in love for the first time, and I haven’t fallen out yet. I have fallen in love with reading and I believe I have J.K. Rowling to thank.
When I was a child, I was always good with word comprehension and spelling. In kindergarten, I was in a pull-out program because I was reading at an eighth grade level. My instructor jokingly recommended that I read War and Peace because I was so adept at reading. I didn’t, and haven’t yet, but my mom still has that feedback sheet in a box of report cards and school-age memorabilia. Reading has always been the thing that I’ve been good at, and luckily for me, what I enjoy and what I’m good at overlap. However, my enjoyment of reading really didn’t take o until second grade when I was introduced to something that would shape my life for years to come. It was a dark autumn night in 2001 when I first got my hands on Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. My mother, an avid reader herself, had heard the hype over the series in magazines and newspapers and gave it a read. She then proceeded to force everyone else in my family to read it, leaving me for last. though it was technically a “children’s” book, it was a longer book for a seven year old and she thought it would take me a while. She thought wrong. It took me about four days to get through the 309 page novel and that was only because I had to do silly things like go to school and eat dinner. At the time that I read Sorcerer’s Stone, the rst four installments to the seven-book series had been published. It took me quite a bit longer to get through the remaining three, especially since the fourth book, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire has 734 pages. I was willing to put in the time and read these books because Sorcerer’s Stone made me realize that I would get enjoyment as a reward. Beyond enjoyment, I was taught valuable lessons that I keep with me to this day such as, “it does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live,” (Sorcerer’s Stone) and “if you want to know what a man’s like take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals,” (Goblet of Fire). These words have left their mark on me and I don’t believe it will ever be erased.
Once I had finished reading the Harry Potter series for the first time, I wanted to feel what I felt during my first tour of Hogwarts again from another book. I then began to read anything and everything in sight. I devoured books I liked and books I hated, but there was never a time I enjoyed more than when I had my nose in a book. I prayed for indoor recess. I lived for long car rides. In fact I will now admit—since no retribution can come from it nearly ten years after the fact—that I completely guessed on the science part of my standardized testing in fifth grade because I had just ended my chapter on a cliffhanger and had to know what happened next. though this probably wasn’t the best choice, I had no sense of a bigger picture as a child. Ultimately, though, this reading obsession lead me to high English grades and proficiency.
During high school, my literacy went downhill. I stopped reading things that were assigned and rarely read things that weren’t, because I was too busy trying to be a cool teenager. I had made new friends who I thought I had to spend all my time socializing with. When I wasn’t with my friends, the only things I read were texts and instant messages from them. In distancing myself from really reading, I had suspended the existence of a very crucial part of myself. Later, in my first semester of college, reading for pleasure completely disappeared. I was so overwhelmed with courses and adjusting to life away from home that I felt I had no time to flip through a book “just because”.
At the end of a long and terrifying first semester away, I came home for winter break to enjoy the holidays with my family. After receiving a Barnes and Noble gift card for Christmas, I used my Nook e-reader to pre-order a book called th e Fault in Our Stars by John Green. I had read his previous books and was anxious to read his next novel. Little did I know how much that book would impact me. So I woke up on the morning of January 10th, 2012 and began to read a book that would change my outlook on life. I was so compelled throughout the book that I did not stop at all until I found out how it ended. After I finished the novel (and cried for several minutes) I forced everyone I knew to read it. This was the first time in over ten years that I had been this obsessed with a book.
In this book Hazel Grace Lancaster is a sixteen year old living with terminal cancer when she meets Augustus Waters, a teen in remission after an amputation due to osteosarcoma. As you go on the adventure with these two teens, you fall in love with their story and feel the unjustness that’s associated with dying young. Yet, Hazel and Augustus teach that, “the world is not a wish-granting factory,” “love is keeping the promise anyway,” and “pain demands to be felt.” These lessons, along with many others, have left me thinking about what it means to be alive and what it means to suffer. Hazel at one point when talking about her favorite book says, “Sometimes you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book." I believe this sums up my feelings towards this book flawlessly and I hope to help this shattered world by encouraging everyone I can to read this beautiful, riveting book.
Since reading The Fault in Our Stars, I have returned to reading on a more-regular basis. Though it is difficult to make time balancing a full schedule of classes and a part- time job, as well as a social life, I make time to enjoy books by turning o my computer and television and reading for at least half an hour a day. I’ve experienced so many new books because of this, and my list just keeps growing. In the words of author Lemony Snicket, “It is likely I will die next to a pile of things I was meaning to read.” I’ve made it my goal for 2013 to read y books and with thirty-seven books completed, I still have a ways to go. I hope to complete my goal, but even if I don’t, I know that the time I spend reading will ultimately serve a bigger goal of mine: to share the joys of reading with as many people as possible.
To many people, reading is something that loses its fun after The Cat in the Hat and becomes the avenue to understanding bills, bank statements, and voice memos. I believe that this is because they haven’t found their Harry Potter or The Fault in Our Stars. Reading shouldn’t be a chore, but when entertainment can come from so many other places, convincing anyone to read in this day and age is a difficult task. What I’ve learned through my experience with literacy is that when you find the right book to open you up to reading, you will find many more books that you’ll like along the way. As an educator, I hope to help my students find a book that helps them begin their own literacy journeys. I am not foolish enough to think that every student I teach will be a reader or will be open to the idea of becoming a reader. However, with the variation of styles, narrators, and genres, I hope that at least one student will find the book that makes them fall in love with reading as I did. I also hope that the books I introduce to my students will help them better understand the world around them as both the Harry Potter series and The Fault in Our Stars did for me. That, ultimately, is the whole point of reading: to understand how to make the most out of life on this planet. Though it may be hard to convince some, I’ve found that the experience and knowledge gained through books can be as helpful and formative as those learned through lived life experience. For in the words of Albus Dumbledore, “Of course it is happening inside your head…but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”
-- Delia Ercoli is a junior English and Secondary Education major at Lewis University. She is involved throughout campus as a tutor in the Writing Center, a member of Sigma Tau Delta, and as one of the editors-in-chief of the 2014 issue of Voices, a Sigma Tau Delta magazine. Delia spends her free time reading Young Adult literature and abusing her Netflix account.