Then, also on Laura's recommendation, I read this pretty great piece on the series by obscure horror novelist Stephen King. King connects the success of the Harry Potter books to the previous king of kids' literature, R.L. Stine ("an adequate but flavorless writer"), which I think is a smart point. He also writes this:
One last thing: The bighead academics seem to think that Harry's magic will not be strong enough to make a generation of nonreaders (especially the male half) into bookworms...but they wouldn't be the first to underestimate Harry's magic; just look at what happened to Lord Voldemort. And, of course, the bigheads would never have credited Harry's influence in the first place, if the evidence hadn't come in the form of best-seller lists. A literary hero as big as the Beatles? "Never happen!" the bigheads would have cried. "The traditional novel is as dead as Jacob Marley! Ask anyone who knows! Ask us, in other words!"(Original emphasis.) The man has a point. Maybe people stop reading as they get older because novels for adults are so dull compared to all that fun kid stuff.
But reading was never dead with the kids. Au contraire, right now it's probably healthier than the adult version, which has to cope with what seems like at least 400 boring and pretentious "literary novels" each year. While the bigheads have been predicting (and bemoaning) the postliterate society, the kids have been supplementing their Potter with the narratives of Lemony Snicket, the adventures of teenage mastermind Artemis Fowl, Philip Pullman's challenging His Dark Materials trilogy, the Alex Rider adventures, Peter Abrahams' superb Ingrid Levin-Hill mysteries, the stories of those amazing traveling blue jeans.