Harry Potter club strengthens reading skills

2012-03-08T08:48:00Z 2012-03-08T12:04:23Z Harry Potter club strengthens reading skillsBy Lauren McLane, Sentinel Reporter The Sentinel
March 08, 2012 8:48 am  • 

And the winner of the Hogwarts House Cup is ... Hufflepuff!

Or at least the winner of the Bellaire Elementary School Harry Potter reading club pizza party is Hufflepuff.

Organized by reading specialist Kellie Peterson, the club consisted of 26 fourth- and fifth- graders at Bellaire identified in fall parent-teacher conferences as being at risk and below grade level in reading.

“Remedial readers don’t want to read at home, so we had to make it fun,” Peterson explained. She asked a student in that age group what he liked to read, and he enthusiastically suggested Harry Potter.

The seven-volume series runs to 4,182 pages total and inspired so-called Pottermania as crowds queued up for hours to get the latest installment when it came out at midnight.

Written for children exactly the ages Peterson was trying to teach, the books have the dual advantage of being fun and wildly popular and also having been made into a series of movies, which helps the students relate visually to the characters.

The six-week course Peterson designed met once a week after school. She read aloud to the students from the first book — “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” — and then they did exercises, quizzes and games based on the book to test their retention.

“They were so enthusiastic. They participated. They were so excited. I asked them to write about what we’d read and they did it without complaint,” she said.


She also devised games based on the books, including Quidditch, which is a wizarding world game not unlike a combination of soccer, basketball, football and lacrosse.

In Harry’s world, of course, the game is played on flying broomsticks, a commodity not available in Carlisle, so they improvised.

In the books, students in each of the four Houses — Griffindor, Hufflepuff, Slytherin and Ravenclaw — are awarded points for good behavior, answering questions or doing well in class.

Students in the reading club earned points for doing well on quizzes, attendance, behavior and so on, Peterson said.

The House with the most points after six weeks would get a pizza party and a movie day to see the movie of their choice. The Hufflepuff students chose “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2,” the final installment in the franchise, which came out last year.

(Because of its PG-13 rating, Peterson will secure signed permission slips from all parents before the students are permitted to see the film).


Almost all of the students were already familiar with Harry Potter, and many of them had read some or all of the books before the reading club started.

By an overwhelming majority, the students best enjoyed the Quidditch matches, but a close second was watching the movies to find inconsistencies from the books.

“I liked that Hermione kept saying the right spells,” Sierra Jones said.

Laila Boyce added that Ms. Peterson was very helpful with the bigger words they didn’t know.

Because the books are written by a British author and for a British audience, many of the British expressions and idioms carried over to the American editions, which gave Peterson an opportunity to teach the students different sentence constructions and word usage — “rubbish,” for example, as an expression of disbelief, or “mental” for crazy.

The best part of the program, according to Principal Jim Burgess, is that it was suggested by a student. Students end up in remedial reading because they have trouble “decoding the words, so they struggle, they get frustrated and they give up,” he said.

By using a book that interests them, Peterson could hold their attention long enough to get them past some of their difficulties.

“Harry Potter is not an easy read. This is a testament to her abilities as a teacher,” he added.

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