My children haven’t read a single word in any of the Harry Potter books, nor have they seen more than a couple of trailers for any of the movies, yet they have a surprisingly good sense of the characters, setting, and plot thanks to some pretty impressive marketing campaigns. Little Red has been identifying himself with the Weasleys for a couple of years. He speaks of the locations and people as though he knows.
Which he doesn’t, of course. Nor will he for a while.
It’s not that I have anything against the books. I have thouroughly enjoyed the stories and I look forward to sharing them with my children. I look forward to the book talk and recreating the scenes in play. But those dreams of mine will have to wait a few more years.
The rule for our home is that you must be at least the age of Harry in the story you’re about to read. When he is eleven he may read the book about when Harry is eleven and he may afterwards watch the corresponding movie. When he is twelve he may read the book of when Harry is twelve and may afterwards watch the corresponding movie. I certainly forsee some wiggle room as he progresses through the series, but in the beginning I’d like him to step through the stories with the protagonists.
It isn’t just because the stories go from benign to dark at an exponential rate. It isn’t just that I want to preserve his youthful innocence as long as possible (can he read the entire collection of Magic Treehouse stories before losing interest? Why aren’t there more A-Z Mysteries?) It isn’t even only because I’m afraid if he’s marathoning the books he’ll fall straight into the torture scenes before he has the emotional maturity to separate fact from fiction or discover too early that the world is not as rosy as he thinks. It’s also because I want him to get the most out of the books.
I want him to wait because he’ll appreciate it more. The children who were at reading age when the books came out literally grew up with Harry. They had to wait for each installment (and as a result they matured, better prepared for the next one.) No one ever died from anticipation, but they did read and re-read, and deepen their comprehension of the previous book. In each book Harry matures, and his relationships with his friends evolve, and his tasks get harder. I want my children to always feel like they can relate to Harry, that they are the fourth member of his group, that they are in the middle of it, and I can best help that happen if my children, when reading the books, are similar in age.
It isn’t just that I want to shelter them from the scary stuff for as long as I can, it’s that I want them to reap the benefits of all the good in the book, too. I want them to be successful readers of the books. I want them to love the stories as I do (or more.)
Let’s discuss: When do/did you introduce Harry Potter to your children and why?