Scarlett finished year three in school and turned over night into a keen reader. Thanks to Harry Potter. The moment she got hold of the first Harry Potter book “The philosopher’s stone” she started reading and devoured it in less than a week. We were all quite surprised as Scarlett hadn’t been too much into reading before. She read what she had to read for school, but that was about it.

Obviously we are delighted, as reading is not only a beautiful pastime but also crucial for a child’s general development. And from a language point of view, especially for multilinguals, reading is indispensable: it expands the vocabulary, improves communication skills and refines the language.

For Scarlett reading in Italian is particularly important. As I and three of the grandparents are not Italian, she has had less input in Italian what concerns for example stories. By reading she might compensate for that and improve her Italian a lot. But what was it actually that turned her into a reader?

First of all Scarlett really wanted to know what Harry Potter was about. Some of her friends had seen the Harry Potter films and it had become an important topic of conversation in her class. Scarlett asked me whether she could see the films, but I didn’t really want her to, as we had just seen the whole Star Wars Saga. So I told Scarlett she could see the films once she read the books. To my surprise she accepted this proposal without complaining, so I went to the library and got her the book.

Secondly Scarlett’s interest in the story fell on fertile ground, as her reading skills have improved greatly. In her first year in school Scarlett’s reading was rather wobbly. In year two she improved a lot and read all texts for school without problems. She wouldn’t however sit down and read anything for fun. At the start of year three, about half a year ago, Scarlett would sometimes take a little book and read in it, but only rarely. A couple of months ago Scarlett for example got her hands on a book that retold the “Zootopia”-film and she read it all aloud to her little brother Quentin.

Thirdly Scarlett finally had time and leisure to read, as the long summer holidays had just started. During the school year Scarlett comes home after 8 hours of school, often she does sports or music afterwards or simply meets some friends, so there is little time for reading.

Another factor might have been the influence of peers. None of Scarlett’s Italian friends reads a lot. Right before the Harry-Potter-moment we went to see some German friends. Scarlett played a lot with her friend Mira, but sometimes Mira would withdraw to a corner, take a book and get absorbed in it. It seemed to me as if Scarlett was surprised at first but later she seemed intrigued by Mira’s behaviour.

And, last but not least, our efforts over the past years may pay off. We always made sure that our children develop a love for books. I always read long bed time stories when they were small, I went with them through picture books when they were older and until today I am reading every night to them. I took Scarlett and her brother Quentin to the library when they could hardly walk and I bombarded them with audio books when we were in the car.

Whatever it was that turned Scarlett into a reader, the turning point seems to be passed. After she finished the first Harry Potter book, we watched the film, as promised. Then Scarlett read the second book, “The chamber of secrets”. She finished it even quicker than the first one. We saw the second film and she started the third book “The prisoner of Azkaban”.

When Scarlett’s Italian reading became so promising I also thought of pushing her reading in German some more. In the past year it had already improved a lot . We often sat down in the evenings and Scarlett read parts of our bedtime stories. We used the “Erst ich, dann du”-approach (German for: First I, then you).

When we were on holiday in Germany we went to the local library quite often. The children took a lot of German books which I read with them and many audio books they listened to passionately. I also asked Scarlett to choose one little booklet written in bigger letters for beginners. Scarlett took a “Bibi-Blocksberg”-book and read it in no time. After finishing she smiled and said that in Italian she is third class in German however she is only first class.

The next book she got was a “Hexe Lilly”-book for second class children with only slightly bigger letters than in normal books. Scarlett read the book quickly without needing much help. When she asked a question then it was usual about rather difficult expressions with a double meaning like “Sie hat hier die Hosen an” (German for: She is wearing the trousers, she is the boss).

Scarlett has not yet reached the level that would allow her to read for example a Harry Potter book in German. She is however on the right path, considering how little she has yet exercised. I am confident that Scarlett will soon read in German. And afterwards we will have to think what to do with English that we haven’t yet tackled at all.

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