LONDON — Believe it or not, the world almost missed out on Harry Potter.
Author J.K. Rowling has told the story of how she received “loads” of rejections before “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” (known in the U.S. as “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone”) was finally published on June 26, 1997.
Rowling once told fans that she couldn’t even get books published under the pseudonym of Robert Galbraith, which she used for some thrillers she wrote.
But, as wizards everywhere now know, Rowling and her imagination eventually broke through in a major way.
More than 450 million copies of Rowling’s series of novels have been sold. They’ve been translated into more than 60 languages.
The “Harry Potter” movies have brought in more than $2 billion.
With the popularity of screen time in its many forms, some experts suggested children had lost the desire to read.
Then Rowling waved her magic wand.
Children were suddenly descending to book stores en masse, libraries had waiting lists for Potter books and kids begged to stay up late to finish just one more chapter.
In 2005, The Guardian wrote about a survey that found children and teachers credited Rowling’s books with boosting literacy.
According to the report, 84 percent of [teachers] said “that the boy wizard has had a positive impact on children’s reading abilities and 73 percent admit that they have been surprised by some of the children that have managed to read Potter.”
All that reading meant lots of money, convincing publishers that young adult and children’s fiction was still a thing.
An argument could be made that books such as “The Hunger Games” and “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” owe a debt to Rowling and Potter for blazing the trail.
Then there’s Potter movie magic.
Who knows where the careers of Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint would be were it not for the Potter film franchise?
Audiences have watched the cast grow up on screen and become megastars.
In 2014, a study led by a group of researchers in Italy found that reading Potter books helped instill empathy in children.
Two follow-up studies found “that reading Harry Potter improved attitudes toward homosexuals in Italian high school students” and built compassion among English university students toward refugees.
Rowling is a bit of a Twitter celeberity.
Her 140-characters or less wit is so celebrated, she’s inspired stories with headlines like “19 Times J.K. Rowling Was Sassy AF On Twitter In 2016.”
Rowling, who was a struggling, divorced mother when she wrote the first Potter book, has conjured quite a world.
She thanked her fans on Monday to mark the 20-year anniversary.