Why I Looked Forward to Teaching Batman and Wimpy Kids

It doesn’t happen often, but tomorrow I will probably be teaching Batman, Harry Potter and Katniss from the Hunger Games. The noise level will be higher than end of term but it will be fun and worthwhile. I can’t wait.​

Tomorrow is World Book Day and for the first time (for me) secondary school children will have the chance to dress up as their favourite fictional character. Younger children have done it for years as their lack of self-conciousness allows them to dress up to their heart’s content. So we see Bob the Builder, the Gruffalo, pirates and princesses, rats and cats and bears. But teenagers?

The students in my area are, surprisingly, really looking forward to dressing up. I have heard them chatting excitedly about who they will be for the day and how they will make their costume. I find it bizarre: I thought all teenagers were concerned about their street credibility and being cool. But this is as cool as it gets.

Children have the opportunity to be as creative as they want to be in becoming their favourite character. They reacquaint themselves with great stories. And, above all, they are encouraged and want to read a book again. Or a series of books. In our house that series isHarry Potter, so those seven books are coming off the shelf again.

On 8 March it is International Women’s Day and it would be fitting to remember some of the great women storytellers, starting with JK Rowling, author of all that is Harry Potter. My initial interest was in the mythology Rowling utilised during her tales of the mysterious Hogwarts, the creatures that had dwelled in the ancient tales of Britain.  I also liked how she created a fantasy world that was a curious – but successful – blend of Medieval and Victorian artefacts and charm. Rowling has the ability to make Harry Potter’s world enchanting and credible. And I’m an historian.

After my initial temptation I became involved in the story and quest of Potter and his friends and read the series to the end. I can remember how sad I felt when it was all over. But like all good stories they can be revisited again and again without losing any of their appeal. They can be viewed with wise eyes and a familiarity that is comforting without destroying the allure. Stories that do not possess these qualities quickly fall by the wayside and are forgotten. And rightly so.

Another time I will recall some of the other great women writers from history. But for now I will relax with my latest discovery: butterbeer.

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