Editor’s Note, May 6, 2020:Daniel Radcliffe, Eddie Redmayne, Stephen Fry, David Beckham, Dakota Fanning and other celebrities will take turns reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone aloud in special video recordings released on J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter at Home hub, the Wizarding World team announced yesterday. Audio versions of the read-alongs will be posted on Spotify. Up first is Radcliffe, who portrayed the franchise’s titular character in the film adaptations of Rowling’s books.
As the world continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, magic, it seems, has never been a more necessary force. Luckily, spellcasting is a social distancing-approved indoor activity—and Muggles and magicians alike can now use a wealth of online resources to keep their wand-waving skills up to snuff.
Earlier this month, Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling announced the launch of Harry Potter at Home, a new online hub that aims to cast “a Banishing Charm on boredom”—particularly for students and teachers seeking relief from the doldrums of quarantine. A collaboration between Rowling and Audible, Bloomsbury, OverDrive, Pottermore Publishing and Scholastic, the website is chock full of craft tutorials, educator resources and more. Superfans can test their Potter trivia knowledge through a series of quizzes, while newcomers to the wizarding world can read interviews with some of the film franchise’s actors or learn how to draw a niffler.
Rowling has also lifted copyright restrictions for educators, allowing teachers to remotely share the Harry Potter series with their pupils by recording videos of themselves reading the books aloud, reports Joey Nolfi for Entertainment Weekly. If such digital read-along sessions aren’t in the cards, users of Harry Potter at Home can access the audiobook for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone for free via Audible’s new Stories platform or digital library service Overdrive, according to Fast Company’s KC Ifeanyi.
“Parents, teachers and carers working to keep children amused and interested while we’re on lockdown might need a bit of magic,” Rowling tweeted on April 1.
Local lockdowns have also spurred a surge in enrollment at Hogwarts Is Here, a fan-run website that, since its launch in 2014, has taken an online learning approach to some of the most crucial classes taught at the world’s most beloved wizarding school.
Through the portal, users can join a Hogwarts house and enroll in a vast curriculum of classes that come complete with syllabi, reading material, essays and even exams, reports McKenzie Jean-Philippe for the Oprah magazine. Winning magical prowess, in other words, requires real work—and though the course content is, sadly, still fictional, the critical thinking and research required to earn top grades are “skills you can apply in the real world,” Hogwarts Is Here professor Lillian Mae (real name Kristen) told Caitlin Dewey of the Washington Post in 2014.
Wand-weary fans can also hop onto the site’s forums to interact with other students—the sort of community that’s become much-needed in the past several months. As such, the site has been absolutely inundated as of late, prompting the creators to admit some technical hiccups in a Facebook post last week.
“We’re working on our servers to cope with the extreme traffic, but as more and more people keep joining, things may be a bit slow over this weekend,” they wrote, “… and it seems that Peeves”—a mischief-loving poltergeist known to haunt Hogwarts’ halls—“is loving all the attention and wreaking even more havoc than usual.”
The site’s popularity remains a testament to the staying power of the Harry Potter franchise, which launched with the release of Rowling’s first book in June 1997. Almost 23 years later, the world is very different—but the allure of magic, especially in times of immense difficulty, certainly has yet to wane.