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  1. Age Progression in the Harry Potter Series: Reading Levels, Complexity of Ideas and Ambiguity Vicky McKinley Roosevelt University Chicago, IL

  2. When Should the Magic Begin for My Child ? • Reading ability • Reading with understanding • Age appropriateness • “scariness” • complexity of ideas • fantasy vs reality • conceptualization of death • clear morality vs ambiguity • right, wrong and gray areas

  3. Young-Adult Literature? • The Harry Potter series has been described as “young-adult” literature, generally meaning books written for children aged 10 – 18 years of age. Cart, 2004 • The Harry Potter books have also been described as belonging to the “cross-over genre”: intended to be read by both young adults and adults. Laarakker, 2004 • Rowling says the books are for all ages, and has signed the online petition NoToAgeBanding,org to protest the publishers’ intent to place age labels on the books.

  4. A Unique Book Series Two interesting aspects of the 7-book “Harry Potter” series: • The characters age throughout the series • one year of age per book • The difficulty of the books themselves also increases through the series, allowing readers to “grow” into them: • Readability • Concepts and complexity

  5. Each Child is an Individual • Reading readiness • Experience • Fantasies and fears • Cognitive development • Parental support

  6. Reading Independently • Defined as reading without help and with comprehension • For full independence, the reading level of the text should be two years below the reading level of the child Klare, G. R., 1963 • However, to develop as readers, children should sometimes read material slightly above, or at the upper range of, their reading level Lexile.com • Motivated readers will willingly tackle material above their reading level (often reported for Harry Potter)

  7. Readability • Objective measures of the ease with which a text can be read • Mathematical formulas that summarize the technical complexity of words and sentences • Intended to help educators and parents make decisions about purchase and use of books • Many different readability formulas are in use

  8. The Formulas Most readability formulas are based on: • Number of words per sentence • Number of letters per word • Number of syllables per word • Passive vs active sentences • Semantic difficulty (word frequency)

  9. Readability Results • Readability results are expressed as: • Chronological age (+ 1 year) • American school grade level (+ 1 year) • Scores

  10. What it does not do • Not all aspects of texts that affect reading can be measured this way: • Sentence structure, clauses • Word familiarity • Interest level • Comprehension • Organization of ideas • Legibility, type style and design • Gender, class or cultural bias

  11. The cat sat on your mat. The cat sat on the mat. On the mat the cat sat. The cat on the mat sat. Sat the cat on the mat? Sat: the cat on the mat. Will Not Distinguish Keith Johnson, 1998 Timetabler.com

  12. Will Distinguish • The cat sat on the mat. • The feline reclined on the axminster. Keith Johnson, 1998 Timetabler.com

  13. Readability Basics • Book length (chapters, pages) (All seven have the same font and style) • Average characters per word • Average words per sentence • Average sentences per paragraph

  14. Basic Readability Statistics

  15. Basic Readability Statistics

  16. Readability Statistics:Reading Grade Level • Flesch-Kincaid Readability Score • Based on average syllables/word and words/sentence • Scholastic Inc. publisher recommendations • Accelerated Reader Level • Uses a word database and student comprehension statistics • Coleman-Liau Readability Score • Based on average characters/word and words/sentence

  17. Readability StatisticsGrade Level

  18. Readability (Grade Level)

  19. Readability Conclusions • For Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, recommendations range from Grade 4.9 to 8 • Most recommend about Grade 5 at the earliest • All models recognize an increase in difficulty through the series • The steps and ranges differ somewhat • Bit of a jump from the 3rd to the 4th book

  20. Matching the Child with the Book • Complexity of writing • Difficulty of ideas/themes • Emotional maturity • Cognitive development

  21. Controversial Themes • Death and mortality • JKR has said that this is the primary theme of the books • Tolerance, Prejudice and Authority • Another theme that JKR has intended • Good vs Evil • Dichotomy or gradient? • Love and Hate • The search for Identity and Independence

  22. External Controversies • Magic vs Religion (Christianity) • Clarity of Morality vs Ambiguity • Boycotts and Bannings • Can children handle all of the deaths, especially in Deathly Hallows?

  23. J.K. Rowling • “My books are largely about death. They open with the death of Harry’s parents. • There is Voldemort’s obsession with conquering death and his quest for immortality at any price, the goal of anyone with magic. I so understand why Voldemort wants to conquer death. We’re all frightened by it.” London Daily Telegraph interview, 2007

  24. Understanding Death • Most children have some grasp of the concept by age 5 • Final and irreversible, but not universal or personal • Death is often personified (Grim Reaper, Angel, etc.) • By age 8 to 12 (usually 10) they have an adult understanding of the major aspects of death • Final • Irreversible • Universal • Biological basis • Cause and effect

  25. Death in Children’s Literature and Film • More prominent prior to WW II • Children tended to have more direct experiences with death at earlier ages • More characters, including children, died in fairy tales and other books for children • Study of deaths in Disney animated films • Portrayals were both good and bad, but some sent confusing messages • “Some scenes eclipse the permanence and irreversibility of death and often leave deaths emotionally unacknowledged, particularly those of villains. Cox et al. 2004

  26. Explicit vs Implicit Deaths • Explicit deaths are defined here as those in which • the reader or the protagonist (usually Harry) sees a person being killed or dying, or • sees a dead body • Implicit deaths are those that • occur off-scene or off-camera, out of view of the reader and the protagonists • the characters hear about them from the past • are assumed dead due to news reports or rumors

  27. Death in Harry Potter:Explicit Depictions 1Muggles killed by Peter Pettigrew 2 An uncertain number of Inferi bodies

  28. Emotional Intensity of Deaths • Negative Emotions • Sad, regretful, angry, OR • Intense emotional feelings by one or more characters (usually Harry) • Positive Emotions • Relief • Usually an antagonist • Neutral emotion • Someone they did not know, or • had mixed feelings about

  29. Death in Harry Potter:Emotional Reactions

  30. Death inBook 3Prisoner of Azkaban • Scariness factor: dementors • Don’t kill, but suck out your soul • “worse than death” • Harry hears the screams and pleadings of his mother being killed by Voldemort whenever he is near dementors

  31. Death in Book 4Goblet of Fire Emotions ratchet up: Cedric Diggory dies • fellow student Harry knew and liked • murdered suddenly and unexpectedly • death witnessed by Harry • an innocent victim • Harry feels guilt because Voldemort was really after Harry

  32. Reactions to Cedric Diggory’s death • For a second that contained an eternity, Harry stared into Cedric’s face, at his open gray eyes, blank and expressionless as the windows of a deserted house, at his half-open mouth, which looked slightly surprised. GF 32 • “He’s dead!” “He’s dead!” “Cedric Diggory! Dead!” GF 35 • “It wasn’t your fault, Harry,” Mrs. Weasley whispered. GF 36

  33. Reactions to Cedric Diggory’s death • They did not blame him for what had happened; on the contrary, both thanked him for returning Cedric’s body to them. Mr. Diggory sobbed through most of the interview. Mrs. Diggory’s grief seemed to be beyond tears. • He had avoided being in the Great Hall when it was full ever since he had left the hospital wing, preferring to eat when it was nearly empty to avoid the stares of his fellow students.

  34. Death in Book 5Order of the Phoenix Sirius Black dies • Harry has a personal relationship with the victim (his godfather) and loved him • had only recently had gotten to know him; was looking forward to living with him someday • Sirius provided a connection with Harry’s dead father, since they were best of friends • Harry witnesses the murder • Harry feels responsible for Sirius’s death due to being tricked by Voldemort

  35. Reactions toSirius Black’s Death • And Harry saw the look of mingled fear and surprise on his god­father’s wasted, once-handsome face as he fell … OP 35 • “We can still reach him —”; “He hasn’t gone!” Harry yelled. OP 35, 36 • He did not believe it, he would not believe it; still he fought Lupin with every bit of strength he had: Lupin did not under­stand, people hid behind that curtain, he had heard them whispering the first time he had entered the room — Sirius was hiding, simply lurking out of sight — • “He can’t come back, Harry,” said Lupin, his voice breaking as he struggled to contain Harry. “He can’t come back, because he’s d —” • “HE — IS — NOT — DEAD!” roared Harry. “SIRIUS!” OP 36

  36. Sirius Black’s Death:a more profound grief • It was his fault Sirius had died; it was all his fault. • It was unbearable, he would not think about it, he could not stand it….There was a terrible hollow inside him he did not want to feel or examine, a dark hole where Sirius had been, where Sirius had vanished. He did not want to have to be alone with that great, silent space, he could not stand it — • To say it aloud would be to make it final, absolute, irretrievable. • The guilt filling the whole of Harry’s chest like some monstrous, weighty parasite now writhed and squirmed. Harry could not stand this, he could not stand being Harry anymore….He had never felt more trapped inside his own head and body, never wished so intensely that he could be somebody — anybody — else.... OP 37

  37. Death and Anger • “I know how you are feeling, Harry,” said Dumbledore very quietly. • “No, you don’t,” said Harry, and his voice was suddenly loud and strong. White-hot anger leapt inside him. Dumbledore knew nothing about his feelings. • “There is no shame in what you are feeling, Harry,” said Dumbledore’s voice…. “Harry, suffering like this proves you are still a man! This pain is part of being human —” • “THEN — I — DON’T — WANT — TO — BE — HUMAN!” Harry roared, and he seized one of the delicate silver instruments from the spindle-legged table beside him and flung it across the room. OP 37

  38. Looking for a Loophole • “People can come back, right? As ghosts? They don’t have to disappear completely. Well?”Harry • “He will not come back,” repeated Nick quietly. “He will have... gone on.” Nearly Headless Nick, a ghost • “— what happens when you die, anyway? Where do you go? Why doesn’t everyone come back? Why isn’t this place full of ghosts?” • “I was afraid of death,” said Nick. “I chose to remain behind. I sometimes wonder whether I oughtn’t to have…Well, that is neither here nor there....In fact, I am neither here nor there….” OP 38

  39. Death in Book 6Half-Blood Prince New scare factor: Inferi • Dead bodies that are magically animated by a Dark wizard to do their bidding • Harry is attacked by an innumerable number of them in the cave

  40. Death in Book 6Half-Blood Prince Dumbledore dies: • Dumbledore as mentor, grandfather figure • wise, steadfast, the one everyone depended upon • unexpected by everyone • killed by a fellow teacher • witnessed by Harry, incapable of helping • a funeral

  41. Reactions toDumbledore’s Death: • A jet of green light shot from the end of Snape’s wand and hit Dumbledore squarely in the chest. Harry’s scream of horror never left him; silent and unmoving, he was forced to watch as Dumbledore was blasted into the air. HBP 27 • Harry felt as though he too were hurtling through space, it had not happened….It could not have happened…. HBP 28 • Terror tore at Harry’s heart….He had to get to Dumbledore and he had to catch Snape….Somehow the two things were linked….He could reverse what had happened if he had them both together…. Dumbledore could not have died…. HBP 28

  42. His Last Protector… • Harry reached out, straightened the half-moon spectacles upon the crooked nose, and wiped a trickle of blood from the mouth with his own sleeve. • Then he gazed down at the wise old face and tried to absorb the enormous and incomprehensible truth: that never again would Dumbledore speak to him, never again could he help.... HBP 28 • There was no waking from his nightmare, no comforting whisper in the dark that he was safe really, that it was all in his imagination; the last and greatest of his protectors had died, and he was more alone than he had ever been before. HBP 30

  43. A funeral • He had never attended a funeral before; there had been no body to bury when Sirius had died. He did not know what to expect and was a little worried about what he might see, about how he would feel. • He wondered whether Dumbledore’s death would be more real to him once it was over. • Though he had moments when the horrible fact of itthreatened to overwhelm him, there were blank stretches of numbness where, despite the fact that nobody was talking about anything else in the whole castle, he still found it difficult to believe that Dumbledore had really gone. HBP 30

  44. A More Mature Response • Admittedly he had not, as he had with Sirius, looked desperately for some kind of loophole, some way that Dumbledore would come back…. • And then, without warning, it swept over him, the dreadful truth, more completely and undeniably than it had until now. Dumbledore was dead, gone…..He clutched the cold locket in his hand so tightly that it hurt, but he could not prevent hot tears spilling from his eyes… HBP 30

  45. Book 7Deathly HallowsOpens with a Murder • “Deathly Hallows begins unlike any other book in the series: … (with) a glimpse of the purest of evils. It’s a fitting start to what is by far the grimmest book in the saga.” Matt Zakosek, Sun-Times

  46. Seven Personal Deaths… the Mounting Toll of War • Hedwig: beloved pet • Mad-Eye Moody: mentor, protector • Dobby: house elf that loved Harry, whom Harry had freed; died saving Harry’s life • Fred Weasley: fellow student, friend, “family” • Lupin: former teacher, good friend of his father’s • Tonks: recently married to Lupin; Harry is godfather to their newborn baby • Colin Creevy: fellow student, young

  47. Hedwig and Moody • The realization crashed over him: He felt ashamed of himself as the tears stung his eyes. The owl had been his companion, his one great link with the magical world whenever he had been forced to return to the Dursleys. • “Mad-Eye’s dead.” Nobody spoke, nobody moved. Harry felt as though something inside him was falling, falling through the earth, leaving him forever. DH 5

  48. Dobby • It was like sinking into an old nightmare; for an instant Harry knelt again beside Dumbledore’s body at the foot of the tallest tower at Hogwarts, but in reality he was staring at a tiny body curled upon the grass, pierced by Bellatrix’s silver knife. • And shortly afterward he had set to work, alone, digging the grave…. He dug with a kind of fury, relishing the manual work, glorying in the non-magic of it, for every drop of his sweat and every blister felt like a gift to the elf who had saved their lives. DH 24

  49. Fred Weasley • The world had ended, so why had the battle not ceased, the castle fallen silent in horror, and every combatant laid down their arms? • Harry’s mind was in free fall, spinning out of control, unable to grasp the impossibility, because Fred Weasley could not be dead. DH 32 • He could not bear to join the Weasleys, could not look into their eyes, when if he had given himself up in the first place, Fred might never have died…. DH 33

  50. Lupin and Tonks • The Great Hall seemed to fly away, become smaller, shrink, as Harry reeled backward from the doorway. He could not draw breath. He could not bear to look at any of the other bodies, to see who else had died for him. • Lupin, Tonks... He yearned not to feel. . . . He wished he could rip out his heart, his innards, everything that was screaming inside him.... DH 33