Reading Level: Ages 12+
Reviewed by Kathy Davis
In the expanse of todayâs Childrenâs literature, there is nothing out there quite like Harry Potter. I had read the first book a few years back and decided I didnât like it. Besides, I thought my children too young for the books so I didnât bother to read the sequels. I also believed it inappropriate for me to give my boys books that centered upon wizarding and witchcraft. But, I did allow them to read titles like The Wizard of OZ, The Chronicles of Prydain, The Chronicles of Narnia, and most recently The Lord of the Rings. I began to wonder why I thought those titles were acceptable to me, considering they too contained witches and wizards. When the Deathly Hallows was released I decided to go back to square one and read all 7 books in the series. I didnât want my boys (or me) to miss out on a good literature experience. It took me a month, but I finished them all. Has my opinion changed? Yes. Now that I know what is in the books, I am not afraid to have my boys (ages 10 and 12) read them. They have shown in the past they are not easily influenced by a fiction book. They are quick to recognize immoral behavior and beliefs that differ from their own. Rather than question their own beliefs, they pity those who have made bad choices, believe lies, or donât recognize the truth. They especially love a good story, and Harry Potter is a good story.
But what about the witchcraft element? Has JK Rowling written a series that will cause children to dabble into witchcraft and wizardry? I would hope not. I donât anticipate my boys to become intrigued with witchcraft any more than I expect them to grow a third eye. They know the difference between fact and fiction. Harry Potter is clearly a fantasy. The characters are born witches or wizards; itâs not something they decide to be. Though the wizarding community lives among the âmugglesâ, the muggles donât usually recognize them. The magical population is governed by their own set of rules, enforced by âThe Ministry of Magicâ. As with all childrenâs literature, the recommended reading level for each book should be followed. And, any child who is immature, impressionable, highly sensitive, or has an overactive imagination might be better off to read something else.
And, what about worldview? Does the series support a biblical worldview? Not that I could find. Though others may have noticed something I missed. I read nothing of God Himself, nor was it entirely clear what happened in the afterlife. There was a good side (Harry and friends) and a dark side (Voldemort and the death eaters). Sometimes the fruits of amoral behavior were clear, sometimes not. But, if we restricted our reading to only those books that supported our own worldview, it would significantly reduce the amount of books we could read. When reading a book that is different from your familyâs worldview, the solution isnât necessarily to forbid, but rather compare, discuss, and analyze. Still, Sometimes just because we CAN read something doesnât mean we SHOULD. Allow the Holy Spirit to be your ultimate guide for anything questionable.
And what about the moral aspect? The HP books are witty, amusing, moving, and wildly entertaining, but there are things in these books that should prompt a parent to take pause. Violence. Murder. Cursing. Child abuse. Teenage rebellion. Bullying. Revenge. Lying. Cheating. Drinking. Disobedience. Teenage dating/ kissing, and some of these behaviors are condoned. The latter books get progressively more challenging with moral boundaries. I consider these content issues paramount over the witchcraft in weighing the decision to read or not to read. Then why read the series at all? Why not just ignore it all together? Aside from Harry Potter being impossible to ignore, the series is truly one of a kind. The characters are extraordinarily developed, and the plot details are intricately woven and ingenious. The writing is engaging, and readers are pulled in from the very beginning. Once started, the books are nearly impossible to put down. Also, Iâve found the disagreeable parts to be milder in comparison to things Iâve read in many other children and young adult books. I handle it by staying closely involved, and discuss any sensitive situations with my boys. Love him or not, Harry Potter is here to stay. Whether it be Harry Potter or any other book, the only sure way you can exercise good judgment to determine if it is worthwhile is to read it yourself. And teach your children early on how to choose suitable reading material. Until they are capable of doing that independently, it is your responsibility to carefully and prayerfully help them choose what to read. There are some books on my reviewed list that I thought inappropriate for (Christian) children/young adults and suggest they be avoided. Hopefully Iâve given good enough reasons why. But only you can decide what is right or wrong for your own family. Screening ahead, combined with appropriate selections and family discussions/parental involvement should help you get the most out of all your reading adventures.
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