Magic is important. What? You mean Harry Potter and stuff? Well, sort of. It’s important for kids to have a little hope in their lives. All the practicality in the world can’t make up for a little bit of that elusive sparkle.
Mary Poppins is the most obvious example in this situation since she had literal magic to work with. She takes the children on adventures through chalk drawings and has tea on the ceiling because of the power of laughter. However, sometimes Mary Poppins’s magic is in the joy she brings into the kids’ lives. “A Spoon Full of Sugar” doesn’t just help the medicine go down, it makes everyday tasks a joy by bringing in fun and wonder. One of my favorite moments from the entire movie is when she acts all prim and proper and then proceeds to powder her nose with soot. It’s just funny, and no one knows what she’s going to do next. It’s all very exciting.
However, magic stands in for hope, creativity, wonder, and humor. As Maria, Julie Andrews is not at all magical, yet she brings light into those children’s lives in an entirely magical way. Again, she is not predictable except that she will care and have a brilliant, fun idea to work with.
There is also a kind of magic specifically for the viewers in the form of hope. The country is invaded by Nazis, and all seems entirely lost. However, by persevering their integrity and standing up for what they believe in, the family escapes Nazi control. There is a sense that even with evil all around, there are still good people who will help them and people who will not fight for the Nazis.
Coincidentally (or not), this brings us to another Developmental Asset from the Search Institute. One of the 40 assets that improve teens chances of growing up to be a happy, healthy, productive adult is having a positive view of their personal future- hope.
Now, how can we help inspire that view of their personal future? Well, I certainly cannot pull anyone up a chimney. However, by giving kids positive environments, believing in them, and giving them a sense of magic, I think that libraries are well positioned to make that positive belief in self come true. The magic comes from humor, programs, great books, and caring adults who are trying hard to create a world of a hope. You don’t need to convince every kid that Harry Potter is their only way to a positive future, but you do need to find what inspires them and encourage that. That way, they grow up knowing that there is an adult that believes in them and wants them to succeed. Magical, isn’t it?