5 Super-Important Reasons To Read The Harry Potter Series With Your Kids
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I've hesitated in writing this post because I know it sharply divides the Christian community. I, myself, was raised with the message that Halloween was "The Devil's holiday", and shows like Bewitched, Scooby-Doo and The Smurfs were evil because they glorified witchcraft, demonic activity, and the occult. Despite having reached my own conclusions about the current state of Christianity, I still found myself battling these deep-seated notions from my childhood. However, when my oldest son expressed interest in the books, I could think of no reasonable objection because I had not read the books. How could I decline his earnest request without firsthand knowledge? Is that really the example I want to set for my children, that it's okay to reject unfamiliar experiences based on hearsay and assumptions? Absolutely not. So, rather than shield it from him, I told him we could read the first book together as a family. This was an appropriate compromise because it allowed my husband and I to be aware of the content and also guide any pertinent discussions. Both of us have a deep and abiding love for God, and have taken great care to impart that devotion to our children. However, we also know we are raising global citizens who need to be able to not only function, but thrive, in a changing world. For that reason, we're committed to tackling their questions honestly and openly—especiallythe ones that make us uncomfortable—because they need and deserve it. Right now, the issues are as simple as what books to read, but very soon, the thoughts they bring to us will be far more complex. By that time, we will have established a relationship built on mutual respect and trust.
As we began the first book, I fully prepared myself for the fact that we might not finish. Maybe we'd get bored and lose of interest, or perhaps the advanced reading level would prove too much for our seven year-old. Turns out, I shouldn't have worried in the least! We've read two books in their entirety (and are rapidly devouring the third!), and I can honestly say our entire family has fallen in love with Harry, Ron, Hermione, and the rest of the characters. Diving into this series has brought our family such joy, while also giving us a much-needed break from a challenging season of life. Evening readings are something we all look forward to, particularly after a long day of work, school, and assignments. As we've delved deeper and become more invested in the stories, several important reasons to read the Harry Potter series have bubbled to the surface. I am in no way trying to convince anyone to change minds here; if your heart is set, I absolutely respect the thought that no doubt went into your decision. However, if you're on the fence or if the children in your life have expressed curiosity about these books, this list may be helpful.
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1. Offers a Poignant Reminder of the Ups and Downs of Childhood
As adults we often forget our kids are actual people with feelings, as opposed to robots who must do what we say when we say it. Yes, we have much on our plates and most of the time, our hearts are in the right place, but our children are complex beings who should be honored. Lately, I've remembered the eloquence of J.K. Rowling's young characters and chosen to amend the tone with which I address my kids.
2. Encourages Open Dialogue
Many of the storylines have led to discussions about real-world topics such as injustice, courage in the face of adversity, friendship, bigotry, and more. In that way, it has helped our children begin to make sense of the environment around them because the themes in the book are so universal. Further, by choosing to read the books aloud as a family, we've been able to establish a space in which vocalizing and exchanging thoughts freely is embraced. This will come in quite handy when our they embark on adolescence, a season of life when they might otherwise be inclined to speak less.
3. Fosters Intimacy and Reinforces Familial Bonds
Reading the Harry Potter series has become a lot like going on a trip together, except we never leave the comfort of our home. Yes, it takes much longer than simply reading it alone, but sitting down to read has become one of the most enjoyable ways for our family to wind down and signal the transition from day to night. Someone grabs the book, while the rest of us settle on the couch in anticipation of what new adventure each chapter will bring.
4. Confronts Controversy and Removes Allure
As I mentioned above, this is a hotly-contested subject in many Christian circles. I experienced a flurry of misplaced faux-concern/negativity from a few family members because I openly acknowledged an interest in the stories due to the glowing praise it'd received from friends. That reaction was both frustrating and annoying, considering the folks who expressed the most outrage were the ones with very serious skeletons in their own closets. I am so glad I made up my own mind because, as suspected, the Harry Potter has been the perfect addition to our family library! Even my husband, who prefers to read nonfiction, has become enamored with the stories and characters (and does a spot-on impression of Hagrid, accent and all!). He and I have had many discussions about the parallels between the various plots, the bible, and the current state of our own lives. Together, we've reached our own conclusions regarding the connection between entertainment, fantasy, and faith. We will not raise our children in fear; rather, we will show them how to move through the world with thoughtfulness, compassion, and love, just as Jesus did.
5. Improves Reading and Listening Skills
My oldest was a proficient reader before we began, but his comprehension, word recognition, and public speaking skills have grown by leaps and bounds! Having to persevere through Hagrid's dialect, the many Latin-based magic terms, and unfamiliar British colloquialisms has allowed our oldest to become comfortable with idiosyncratic literature. Instead of becoming frustrated by difficult words, he embraces the challenge and tackles them one syllable at a time. This nightly ritual has not only increased his confidence, but his vocabulary, as well.
Also, taking turns to read allows us to experience being both reader and listener, each requiring distinct skill sets. Our youngest son just started kindergarten and has been struggling a bit with staying focused. In order to reinforce the behavior expected of him at school, we've been able to use our "Harry Potter Time" to practice. When he behaves appropriately, he can hear more of the story; when he makes bad choices, however, he loses this privilege. This approach seems to be working because his teacher has already noticed an improvement in his ability to control himself in the classroom.
Before I end this post, I must reiterate that the effect these books have had on my family was completely unexpected. We love and encourage reading all genres, of course, but these stories have really struck a chord with each of us, for a variety of reasons. Yes, the series is aimed at children, but the depth, complexity, and surprisingly realistic plots contained in each volume has far exceeded my expectations. And the fact that I am able to share the experience with the people who matter most just makes it resonate all the more.
Are you fan of Harry Potter? If so, I'd love to hear your thoughts below! Also, feel free to pass this post along to those who would find it useful!