I primarily blog about topics of interest to NGO practitioners as their organizations engage internationally.  But from time to time a topic comes along that is international but a little more ‘fun’ such as my blog on the World Cup. This holiday blog is one of those.

A few weeks ago around the time of Thanksgiving in the U.S.,  Twitter friend and colleague Linda Raftree (@meowtree for those of you who know her on Twitter) and I exchanged some communications about family traditions surrounding Harry Potter books and movies.[i] We both have children that grew up with the Harry Potter characters through the last decade, and family traditions surrounding the release of new books and movies in the series.  With the release of the first part of the last movie (with the final to be released in June 2011), the end of the line of  a release of a book or movie every year or so is just about to conclude.  We wondered how many other families might have memories or traditions revolving around the “Harry Potter generation” and the worldwide phenomenon of the past decade.   So we decided to share some of our memories  (Linda’s can fe found at Growing Up with Harry) and hope this will prompt others to share theirs as well.

For our family I started reading the books to my children in the late 1990’s when my eldest was in primary school. Her principal read them parts of the first book as a treat when their teacher was ill and they started the school year with a substitute.  My daughter came home talking about it which led me to begin to read it as a night time book to her and her brother.  The three of us then began talking about it so much that my husband ‘wanted in’ and it became a family affair.  (He almost got kicked out of the ‘book club’ a few years later when he began to dislike the older teenager Harry, but that’s another story….). We developed a ‘rule’ that we had to read it together and so if a parent was away briefly we would wait until their return.  We had to modify that when I went to London when Harry was in a particularly precarious position.  In London I received an e-mail from my husband “The kids are fine, but Harry’s in trouble again.”  One summer when we were traveling by car in Europe, we bought the British version to read out loud as we drove and started another tradition of having an American and British version of both books whenever possible, and enjoyed comparing them to  try and ‘spy’ the differences.

The characters were so ingrained in our imaginations that when the first movie came out in 2001 my daughter did not want to see it as she didn’t want the filmmaker’s version of the characters to transplant her own images.  Over the years she ‘gave in’ as all of her friends began to talk about the movies, and we began another family tradition of seeing the movies together.

This generation that grew up with the Harry Potter characters was lucky – they were young when the early books started off with somewhat mild tension and violence, and matured with the books as they took on harsher themes and darker tones.  My daughter has wondered what age level the books will appeal to going forward.

There has been some discussion of the books’ potential to improve literacy by motivating children to read more than they otherwise would.  Although I suspect my children would have been good readers in any case, the books did motivate my son to take all of the words he was storing up inside and want to use them – moving right from reading books like “Go Dog Go” to reading Harry Potter.

The series has been translated into over 67 languages and some cross-cultural reflections on the books impacts on the “Harry Potter generation” and family traditions could be especially interesting to explore…

If you have children who are part of the “Harry Potter generation” what are your memories?

[i] If you did not follow Harry Potter closely and are interested in more background on this phenomenon, you can find it here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_Potter