Have you read Harry Potter? This is one of the first questions I ask my students each year. This summer, the world is celebrating the 20th anniversary of the publication of the Harry Potter Series. Is Harry Potter the single greatest children’s book series of all time? Well, author J.K. Rowling is the first author to become a billionaire based on writing books. Though notable for this milestone, I believe the series’ greatest achievement is the countless reluctant readers who have become avid readers thanks to the trip through platform nine and three-quarters.
Students in my sixth grade class are encouraged to complete independent reading throughout the year. This past school year, I had a conference with parents in the fall who shared with me that their daughter didn’t like to read. By the spring conference, they told me that she was “getting into trouble for reading the Harry Potter books under the covers after the lights were out.” Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, and Hermione Granger create the best kind of trouble!
Recently, my co-worker mentioned that her daughter, a reluctant reader at the time and a college graduate now, "Couldn’t wait for each Harry Potter book to be published, and begged to go to the store the moment they were released." She went on to say, "She would spend days reading each book until she finished it.” Watching a child who has never enjoyed reading display this level of enthusiasm is a wonderful experience for any parent. At 600-800 pages, these are easily the largest books children have ever read. When my students are indimidated by the length, I explain that the number of pages does not matter when a book is as exciting as Harry Potter. In my experience, the "longest" book in the world is a boring book!
Books are assigned reading levels to check for difficulty in vocabulary and concepts. The reading levels for the first four books in the Harry Potter series are grades 5-6, while the last three vary from 6-8. Younger students can certainly tackle these books, but they are appropriate for a range of ages and reading levels. Children can literally grow up as they read through the series, progressing to a higher level of difficulty as they go.
There are also college courses dedicated to several aspects of the Harry Potter series. The website Pottermore includes further writings by J.K. Rowling, a book club, and tips that encourage students to write their own stories.
A new group of students begin reading Harry Potter in my sixth grade classroom each year, and 20 years later the magic still enthralls. I was excited to share the series with with my own daughter when I became a mother in 1998. We read the first five books together starting when she was in third grade. Later, she enthusiastically completed the series on her own. She's now 18, and we recently enjoyed re-watching the movies together. Several parents of students in my class wouldn't let their child watch the movie until after they completed reading the book. I thought that was an excellent decision! These students used their imaginations while reading, and then enjoyed watching the films afterward.
The Harry Potter series has stood the test of time and continues to turn reluctant readers into avid and enthusiastic readers. If your child has an interest in “the boy who lived,” I recommend reading the series together. You can discuss the plot and characters of the story, or on a deeper level, you can touch on topics like the lessons in leadership, compassion, and morality. Reading Harry Potter improves empathy and promotes good character.
Next, you can watch the movies together. Though the films can't include every aspect of the novels, they are truly excellent. If you've already read the books and seen the films, try this list! Reading together is one of the best ways to encourage your child to become a competent and enthusiastic reader, and you may just re-discover your own love of the magic of reading thanks to Harry Potter!