Friday, December 27, 2019

The Book of Umbridge

Book 5, The Order of the Phoenix, is the  Dolores Umbridge of Harry Potter Books. What a punishment! With all due respect, Ms. Rowling, this book is as unforgiving as the Senior Undersecretary herself!  My son started this project with gusto! He began his Harry Potter reading this year with the third chapter of the second book back in January. (He had read up to that point previously in school a year prior to the start of this whole journey.) By summer break, he was reading The Goblet of Fire and completely enthralled! But with the introduction of Harry's attitude and the mercilessness of Professor Umbridge in book 5, his interest in finishing the task abruptly diminished.

"She's the worst" I would hear from my ten- year- old as he struggled to stay interested. I would quite have to agree, she is the worst. 

"Can you believe that the same person who created the character of Harry also created such an aweful lady?" I asked him one day. "Same imagination, two very different characters." I had to let go of the fact that I knew he was suffering from reading about Dolores Umbridge and encourage him to keep chugging away at his reading.

Over the course of the first half of the fifth book we would delve into a conversations about the faults of Umbridge. But as the first semester of his fifth grade year pressed on, I started to realized that he might not get this book finished in time. For him, reading about Harry's struggle with Umbridge, not Voldemort, mind you, was torturing this kid like Occlumency lessons with Snape!

I had to take it upon myself to help see him through this one… I knew how hard the struggle was. I read about the teen angst of Harry and the shenanigans of the ministry at age 21 when the book was released and I myself was bothered. So it was no surprise that my son felt the same way. Finally, after weeks of encouraging, which turned into nagging, I decided he really could use some help.

I knew that he wouldn't make it to the end of the series by his birthday if I didn't shoulder this task along with him.  So I did what any good mom would do…I read to my kid(s).

My daughter was now along for the adventure too, whether she liked it or not. Since Carrick wasn't going to get the books finished without my tandem reading, she was subjected to the story too as I read aloud each evening. For three weeks we did this. (Basically from after Thanksgiving to the beginning of Christmas Break.) Sometimes my daughter would fall asleep on the couch while I read. My son would contentedly play with Legos or Pokemon cards on the floor and listen while I nested on the couch and brought the characters to life. 

Reading aloud gave us something to share together. It's one thing to read a book that someone else has read also and take up discussion. It's a whole other thing to hear the words of the book together, and pause for comments and questions. I felt like I was adding value to his Harry Potter experience by being there along with him in his journey. It was something I was secretly feeling guilty about this entire time. I felt like reading out loud to him should be something I do more often. At best I was reading to him maybe once a week prior to book 5. I mostly left the reading up to him. 

I realized quickly that taking time to pause within the story was helping him become passionate about finishing the series again.  I would stop and explain vocabulary words. I would pause to highlight the bigger picture. His eyes would widen as he began to comprehend the magnitude of certain plot points. He would also dive into his own speculations about what might happen. I truly appreciated that we were able to connect over Harry Potter books again, outside of me just asking, "how many pages did you read today?"

So, we are now on the other side of this book. He completed the final chapter on the eve of Christmas Break. He took the audio CD of book 6 with him to his dad's house to get a jump start on it over break. Hopefully, he will come home with a good portion of the book "read" when Break ends. 

I also have Book 7 on Audio CD. So, after the completion of book 6, Jim Dale will continue to read to us every night. Hopefully this will mean that my son is able to complete the Harry Potter Series before his birthday at the end of the month. I am thinking it's totally doable. 

Now, let it be known that my daughter has already cited "the flaw in the plan". (Little book 7 reference there…) "But I'm going to know how it ends!" she said to me last week as I explained mom's master plan for completion.

"I know, honey, but hearing the man read it on the CD is exactly the same as mom reading it from the book, only better because he does voices," I explained to her.

"But I won't have read all the books!" she said, sounding forlorn. I told her I would think about how to handle this while she was away for Christmas Break.

I understand that she wants her experience to match that of her brother's. She wants to diligently read all the books and complete the project as well when the time comes. She and I already started reading the Sorcerer's Stone together, but put it on pause so I could help to finish The Order of the Phoenix.

It would be one thing if she had not seen the movies yet. (I know it's not the same as reading a book, but she has the general idea of the plot.) She knows what happens in all the movies (except for number 7. Neither one of my children have been allowed to watch it yet. They MUST read the book first. No spoilers!) So it's not like she is reading the books with no idea of what comes next.

So I have some thinking to do with regards to how I am going to help my son finish book 7. Do I just let Jim Dale tell us all the tale? Or should I try to keep book 7 a secret from my daughter until she too has completed her own journey of reading the series?

I don't want to exclude her from reading time in the evening and I really want to go through book 7 with my son. I would love to discuss the plot and all the ends that get tied up as they happen. I want him to get the fullest out of this initial experience. And, I secretly would love to shelter my daughter for as long as I can from hearing how it ends until its her time to read the book.

Or should I just let my daughter hear how it ends? Then when she reads the books on her own, she will notice the finer twists and plot points as they relate to the ending of the series?

I have a few weeks to think about this…I know I will come up with a solution. After all, I am a Ravenclaw. We are known for thinking outside the box!