Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Reading Fairy Sprinkles Her Magic on the Washington Township Area

On a normal given day, Margaret Harmon likes to dress up in one of her many fairy outfits and head to a local school to reprise her role as “The Reading Fairy.”

But she’s not just doing this for kicks.

“I have a vision to create a literary icon,” Harmon says.

Lofty goals indeed, but one Harmon doesn’t see herself giving up on anytime soon.

“[I want kids to] see the Reading Fairy, and say ‘wow, reading is cool,’” Harmon says.

Starting her work as the Reading Fairy six years ago after seeing that her son had trouble finding an interest in reading, she got the inspiration for her character from a scene in the movie, You’ve Got Mail.

“I was sitting in bed one night, and the movie came on, and Meg Ryan just put on this silly hat and began to read to the kids and they were just captivated,” Harmon says.

Since that time, Harmon has gone to local schools in the area and has done projects with the kids from kindergarten to third grade, each time giving out a prize at the end of the story from her “Magic Reading Box.”

“I won’t let the teacher peek in it and I make her hold it until the end,” Harmon says.

Inside the box is a small gift for every student that connects the entire lesson together. One such prize from this purple mystery box, for example, contained a plastic snowflake for the book, Axle Annie, as snow is a common theme in the story. The word of the day was “perseverance,” and that too had a connection to the story, as “a snow flake has to persevere to get to the ground,” Harmon says.

The many plastic snowflakes didn’t come cheap though, and paying for it came completely out of pocket, as well as the cross-country trips she made to New Orleans to read to Katrina victims, as well as to Colorado to read to children in military schools.

Harmon has taken on a second job as a distributor in a greeting card company just to pay for it all.

Still, she thinks it’s all worth it to see children warm up to reading.

“[The military school represented] the final part of our beta test [to see if my character would work abroad],” Harmon says, “And I’ve found that kids really like the concept of the Reading Fairy.”

So much so, in fact, that Harmon has actually written a book that she hopes to self-publish of the adventures of her character called, Saving the Reading Fairy. It’s about reading books over the summer, a topic that she says many teachers have a hard time getting their students to appreciate at the end of the year.

And following that book will be another story, this one featuring the return of the Reading Fairy’s antagonist, Brainrotter.

“I don’t know if we’ll take the traditional publishing route with this next one,” Harmon says.”

One thing Harmon doesn’t want to do though is steal the thunder from any other literary market that tries to get children to read, as she supports any avenue that gets kids interested in literature.

“I’m not out there to reinvent the wheel,” Harmon says, citing examples of other organizations such as Scholastic that has Clifford the Big Red Dog as their mascot, “[But] My hope is that a child can walk into the library and get that warm and fuzzy feeling whenever they see the Reading Fairy.”


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