The first thing I ever heard about Harry Potter was how all the kids were crazy about the books and how even the kids who hated reading wanted to read the books. It made me wonder what magic JK Rowling was weaving around her readers to mesmerise them so. To find out, I started reading the books out of curiosity but found myself quickly ensnared by the magical world of Hogwarts. I waited with eager anticipation along with the rest of the children, anxious to get my hands on each of Rowling’s latest Harry Potter release.
When G1 was old enough for the first book of Harry Potter, I tried to introduce him to the world of magic. To my surprise, he rejected Harry Potter. I was gobsmacked in confusion. Every child that knows about Harry Potter loved his stories – or so I thought. Somewhat disappointed that my son did not share my enthusiasm for Harry Potter, I shelved the books and we moved on to other stories instead. I figured it didn’t matter anyway because the later Harry Potter stories were rather dark and they would have been inappropriate for a younger child to read anyway. He would have had to stop reading after the second book (possibly third if your child is not the sort that scares easily) and grow up a little more before he could finish the series.
Recently, G1’s class started reading the first book of the Harry Potter series in class. Much to my surprise (and delight), G1 is now so enraptured by the story that he went on to read the rest of book 1, book 2 and book 3 all on his own in rather rapid succession. At the rate he’s going, he could probably finish the entire series before he goes back to school. Initially, I put a stop at book 3 because I felt that book 4 was starting to get a bit too dark for a 7 year old. Unlike the first group of kids that grew up with Harry as they waited for Rowling to write the subsequent books in the series and publish them, the new generation of Harry Potter fans have access to the entire series without having to wait.
Suffice to say, G1 is not happy about having to stop the series. Like any child, he bemoans about the pain of having to wait “a hundred years” before he gets to read the next book. At the same time, I have been asking myself when will it be “ok” for him to start on the next book? I found a number of discussions online about the age-appropriateness of the Harry Potter series and the responses vary considerably. These were some of the responses I read:
While it is helpful to hear what other parents and children (who read the series) are saying about it, the ultimate decision still lies with you and your child. There are a number of guidelines offered but I think the main take home message is that every child is different and you may need to make your decision based on your child’s individual readiness. If you do allow your child to read the entire series at a younger age, you should either read it together or be familiar with the story to discuss the issues with your child.
After pondering about it some more, I’ve decided to allow G1 to continue reading the rest of the series as long as we can talk about the issues presented in the books. My rationale for removing the restriction is as follows…
Since the books are already available at his school library, there really isn’t anything to stop him from reading them on his own. If I place a restriction, he will only be forced to do it behind my back – something I would prefer not to be the case. Additionally, some of his friends are already starting to read the series so whether I like it or not, he will be exposed. If he is already going to read the books, I would much rather be in the loop than out of it. This way we can have an open dialogue about it and address any potentially sensitive issues directly. The only condition I have to set is that if he wants to watch the movies, he has to do so during a time when his brother is not present.
This has always been a tricky subject, especially with precocious readers. Just because a child is capable of reading the words in a book does not mean the content is appropriate for him to read. So what are your thoughts? At what age do you think it is appropriate for a child to read the Harry Potter series?