Harry Potter turns 20 years old today! The first Harry Potter book was released in the U.K. On June 26, 1997.
It almost didn’t get published at all, as author JK Rowling has recount d many times. She received “loads” of rejection letters for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, or Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone as it’s known in the US.
The 7 book series is credited for turning a generation of children into readers like they otherwise might not have been. According to a poll by The Guardian in 2005, 84% of teachers credited the series with encouraging student literacy. 73% reported surprise at the students they could get to read by setting them in front of the story of the boy wizard. Surveys have also found that the series is credited globally the series with teaching children and students of all ages empathy.
Many also credit the series for breathing life into the young adult literature industry. The books altogether have sold over 450 million copies in the two decades since they first reached shelves, and that’s not including accompanying books like Quidditch Through the Ages. Some believe it paved the way for other successful YA series like Twilight and The Hunger Games.
8 movies were made to accompany the books, adding income and lasting relevancy to Rowling’s series. Those films have made a collective $2 billion. Add to that the recent two part play, The Cursed Child, released in London and coming soon to NYC which covers adventures of Harry Potter’s son as well as Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, a prequel series of five films Set in the wizarding world of the past.
She has continued he world of Harry Potter with a successful theme park and an interactive website, Pottermore where she continues to release new information about her world and her characters.
Coming from a life as a single mother on welfare, Rowling’s fantasy world launched her to billionaire status. She briefly fell off of Forbes’ Billionaire list in part because of a $160 Million donation to charity.
This year, however, she was right back up there thanks to the multi-genre spin-offs and extensions of her most famous work. She made an estimated $95 million from June 2016-June 2017, placing her at number 3 on the list of highest paid celebrities with a net worth estimated at just below $ 1 Billion.
Rowling tweeted in honor of her series’ birthday: “20 years ago today a world that I had lived in alone was suddenly open to others. It’s been wonderful. Thank you.
Happy Birthday to the series that changed the life not only of its author but of countless children and people around the world.