When Do You Introduce Harry Potter to Your Children?

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?

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7 thoughts on “When Do You Introduce Harry Potter to Your Children?

  1. I read the books when I was around the age or slightly older than Harry was in them. I generally would say that I’d let kids read them whenever they expressed an interest, but then again, I was always the naughty older sister who provided my younger siblings with whatever books they wanted that my parents didn’t want them reading. 😛

  2. I decided to let my kids decide when to read the Harry Potter series. My oldest chose to read them all in the past year at school. She was very into the series, and I couldn’t imagine holding her back from reading the last few because she is only 10… She devoured it completely! We decided that we would rather encourage her to read anything she is willing, rather than dictate what she is allowed. No child is the same however, and I definitely don’t think that my second daughter is ready… We shall see, and good for you sticking to what you feel is right for your boys.

  3. I think that’s a great idea! My kids haven’t read any of them and I have been wondering when a good jumping off point would be. You have some really great points and I think that growing up with Harry is a great idea.

  4. hmm…my kids have zero desire to read them so far so it hasn’t come up. Potter won’t be banned or endorsed in this house. So, we’ll see!

  5. I have to say I’m with April on this. I can’t imagine holding a kid back from reading something as well-written as the Harry Potter series, especially if their peers are reading and discussing the books at an earlier age. My approach was to always be aware of what types of books my son and his peer group were reading, and to read those books myself (as much as possible). Not a problem with Harry Potter, of course, but when the Twilight series came along and all the girls and boys in his class were reading it…

    I can’t quite fathom why waiting until the age of 11 is any better than starting to read Harry Potter at an earlier age. There are a couple of benefits of the books that would be negated by waiting. One, we are talking about boys. While females are into the books and characters well into their teens and twenties (and older), not so with young males. Boys are interested in the action and heroism, not relationships. The prime age for a boy’s interest in magical spells, flying cars, playing quidditch, and fighting dragons is probably between six and nine. After that, imaginative play tapers off. (Sorry, I’m sure you know more about child development than I do, being trained as a teacher — I’m just talking from personal experience.)

    Two, to wait until a child is the same age as Harry in the book loses the aspirational aspect of the series. Kids learn how life will be when they are older by “reading ahead”. An eleven-year-old doesn’t want to read about other eleven-year-olds. They know what it’s like to be eleven. They are living it. They want to read about teenagers, so they know what’s coming up. And I am all for that, especially if the author is J.K. Rowling, who introduces all sorts of difficult teenage (and life) situations in a gentle, often humorous, non-threatening and even sometimes reassuring way. (I wish I’d had Harry Potter to read when I was growing up, instead of “Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret” and other Judy Blume books that made me feel awful when I was a kid.)

    So anyway, this is turning into some kind of an essay, so I will stop here. I hope you will consider my points, if you haven’t already. Good luck with your plans. I’m sure everything will work out for the best, regardless.

    1. Those are good points, and as I said I could forsee some wiggle room in th future, but for now that’s the goal and Little Red agrees with us. He’s seen the previews for the last three movies and finds them very scary and is in no hurry to read any of the books. And I’m fine with that. I don’t want him rushing to the end, either. He’s only six. We’ve got a lot of time to change our minds.

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