Growing A Reader
by Lauren Magaziner
“Yer a wizard, Lauren!”
Okay, okay. That’s not what the line actually said, but that’s how I heard it.
I was 8 years old, and my brother was 6, and we had just been invited to attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, via our BFF Harry Potter, of course. My brother and I lay on the U-shaped couch every day after school as Mom and Dad read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (and later Chamber of Secrets) out loud, complete with funny voices for different characters.
We read 4 of them together, aloud, as a family. But when Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix came out, my mom and I were decidedly ready to read at a pace much faster than my dad and my brother. My mom and I vowed to read our one copy together (still out loud, for the fun of the voices). Only: each night either my mom or I would try to sneak downstairs, steal the book off the shelf, and read a chapter or two ahead. It became a running spy vs. spy game in our house—to see which one of us could jump ahead and not get caught (we always caught each other).
And I always ALWAYS dressed up as my favorite Harry Potter characters. Including that time I marched around a store called Zany Brainy dressed as Snape when I was 10. (I was joined by my brother and two friends as The Trio and my mom as McGonagall) And, yes—I continued dressing up for years, for all the book releases and movies—and even in college when I ran the campus’s Harry Potter club (dressed as Mrs. Weasley, carrying her family’s clock). Heck, even just last week I wore my Gryffindor garb to see an improv play about the lives of Hufflepuffs.
But it wasn’t just Harry Potter that inspired this sort of fandom and passion: I used to get interactive with ALL my books, especially thanks to the encouragement of some amazing elementary school teachers! There was that time in third grade when—in lieu of a simple book report—I wrote up two diaries (one from each of the main characters’ perspectives), detailing the entire plot of Lily’s Crossing. That same year, I created a spinning mobile based on the book Jeremy Thatcher Dragon Hatcher, complete with a Playmobile dragon, a magic wand, and a fake egg.
In fourth grade, after reading The Diary of Anne Frank, I felt so achingly and heartbreakingly close to Anne. And so I dressed up as her for a biography fair. That same year, my fourth grade class put on a James and the Giant Peach play, and my Aunt Sponge costume was elaborate—with a big warty fake nose. Of course I created a very funny faux-British voice for the part, and to this very day, I still have Aunt Sponge’s monologue memorized!
There was, too, my remarkable fourth grade teacher—Mr. Bloom—who read aloud chapters from Sideways Stories from Wayside School to a whole classroom of chortling students. I used to come home from school and talk my poor mom’s ear off about what funny thing happened in Wayside that day.
I may be revealing the deepest layers of my fangirl soul here, but these times I got to play and create and act and write fan-fiction and participate in (or listen to) dramatic, funny-voiced read-alouds are definitely the experiences that grew a reader. See, for me, reading isn’t a passive activity, and books aren’t just things you look at and ponder. I live and breathe my books.
And this interactivity? It’s how stories come alive!
Lauren Magaziner recently graduated from Hamilton College. She lives in Brooklyn, New York. Her debut novel, The Only Thing Worse Than Witches, released from Dial/Penguin in August 2014. Her second middle grade book, Pilfer Academy, released on February 16, 2016.
About Pilfer Academy
Troublemaking George has never heard of Pilfer Academy, a top-secret school for cultivating young crooks, until he's kidnapped as its newest student. The teachers are kooky at best, and naughty does not even begin to describe his sneaky, smart, and morally bankrupt new classmates. Between disguise classes, cracking safes, and DIY gadgets, George becomes an expert bandit and finds true friendship with Tabitha, his new partner-in-crime. But everything is ruined when George comes to a shocking realization: He is just too good-hearted to be a thief!
Unfortunately, not thieving is not an option at Pilfer Academy, and "misbehaving" students face Dean Deanbuggle's favorite punishment—the Whirlyblerg! In order to gain their freedom, George and Tabitha must pull the biggest heist the school has ever seen and reveal their true colors not as thieves, but as kind (and, okay, mischievous) kids.
About The Only Thing Worse Than Witches
Rupert Campbell is fascinated by the witches who live nearby. He dreams of broomstick tours and souvenir potions, but Rupert’s mother forbids him from even looking at that part of town. The closest he can get to a witchy experience is sitting in class with his awful teacher Mrs. Frabbleknacker, who smells like bellybutton lint and forbids Rupert’s classmates from talking to each other before, during, and after class. So when he sees an ad to become a witch’s apprentice, Rupert simply can’t resist applying.
But Witchling Two isn’t exactly what Rupert expected. With a hankering for lollipops and the magical aptitude of a toad, she needs all the help she can get to pass her exams and become a full-fledged witch. She’s determined to help Rupert stand up to dreadful Mrs. Frabbleknacker too, but the witchling's magic will be as useful as a clump of seaweed unless Rupert can figure out a way to help her improve her spellcasting—and fast!
Learn more about the Growing A Reader series here!