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Harry Potter and the magic of reading

With the final book due in July, teachers assess the impact the popular series has had on children's learning.

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Sitting at a table in the library of Lehman Alternative Community School in Ithaca, N.Y., sixth-grader Marcus Weathersby makes a confession.

"As soon as I get the next Harry Potter book, I'm going to read the last page," he says. "I can't wait. I just cannot wait."

The seventh and last Harry Potter book will be released in July. Millions of Potter fans won't have another book to look forward to after that. But Harry's effect on many young people – and their love of reading – may be magical enough to last a lifetime.

A 2006 study by Scholastic and Yankelovich found that the Harry Potter books have had a positive impact not only on kids' attitudes toward reading, but also on the quality of their schoolwork. The Kids and Family Reading Report surveyed 500 children ages 5 to 17 and their parents or guardians. More than half of Harry Potter readers said they hadn't read books for fun before the series, and 65 percent said they have done better in school since reading the books. The study also found that the reading habits of boys – who consistently have lower literacy test scores than girls – changed the most as a result of reading the books.

Back in the Ithaca library, Marcus's friend, seventh-grader Daniel Carroll, says that he's going to read the end first, too. The boys belong to a group of students who compile book reviews for a blog on the school's website. Their teacher, library media specialist Claire Michelle Viola, doesn't quite seem to understand their strategy.

"That doesn't ruin it for you?" she asks.

"No," says Daniel, smiling. "I always forget [the end] by the time I get there."

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