Bedtime Story Watch
Prisoner of Azkaban, the third Harry Potter book, is also the third I’ve read to my 7-year old. The rule has been “one a year”, mostly because I know the series ramps up the level of darkness and anxiety, but also because once we hit the pagecount explosion of Book 4 I’m keener to pass the job on to him.
There’s some indication, I think, that this is how Rowling expects things to go. The first two books are really exceptionally good for reading aloud – clear storytelling, distinctive character voices, a steady flow of new ideas and exciting incidents, and evocative but simple description.
By HP3, that’s starting to change. The narrative is getting more sophisticated not just emotionally but technically. Crowd scenes are rendered with snatches of unattributed dialogue. Lists of books include parenthetical excerpts. These are ultra standard techniques, and a child reader gets the point of them very quickly. A reader aloud has more trouble making them work. They simply aren’t meant to be bedtime stories.
Reading The Hobbit to Lytton (just turned 6) – Beorn has just sent the party Mirkwood-bound and re-ponied, and this (plus recent Hobbit-discussion on here) seems a good place to take stock.
The Hobbit is a degree tougher going for kids than anything I’ve read aloud so far – there’s notionally 19 chapters but many are very long and the whole thing might well take three times as many nights to finish. I read it absurdly young – yes, I was precocious, but I must have done an outrageous amount of skimming. I’ve read it since – including aloud, to my wife – but as ever reading to kids, with their infinite potential for not listening, really forces you into an awareness of the pace of a book: all the bits I’ve etched into my head happened, but quite a lot happens (or doesn’t really) around them or in between too.