The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling was the first books I remember my parents reading to me when I was little. I was lucky enough to have parents who read to me every single night and even during the day. I constantly begged them to read me a book or tell me a story, and I can’t remember ever NOT loving being read to. But the book that really touched my heart and had a massive influence on my childhood was Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s stone, which my parents began to read to me in first grade. I want every kid to fall in love with reading the way I did, and I think Harry Potter plays a huge role in that, and the overall messages of the books are so so important for kids to learn at a young age.
Harry Potter is one of those books that never gets old no matter how many times you reread it. When Harry Potter came into my life, it was my parents that read them to me. Despite frequent mispronunciations (looking at you, Dad) and them glossing over some of the nastier parts (I didn’t know that Cedric died or Wormtail cut off his hand until I read the series for myself) Harry Potter made me fall in love with reading. J.K. Rowling is such a talented author that she can make the books enjoyable for children to read, but adults can appreciate the deeper, darker themes that children might not pick up on. The first and second times I read Harry Potter, I thought it was an amazing story about adventure and magic and the war between good and evil, but it took me ten more years and yet another reread to fully appreciate and understand the deeper meanings present in the novels.
The books touch on racism, corrupt governments, genocide and the effects of war on the present and future generations. “Purebloods” or wizards with two parents with magical abilities are often pitted against “Mudbloods” or people who have one parent with magical abilities and one who does not. Prejudices also arise between wizards and other magical creatures such as house elves, werewolves, and centaurs. House elves are enslaved by the wizarding race and are subjected to abuse from their masters and are forced to commit acts of self harm as punishment when they do something wrong. The government is corrupt, refuses to admit error despite copious amounts of evidence and is basically more of a hinderance than help. J.K. Rowling stresses that just because magic exists in the wizarding world does not mean it is devoid of problems. Not to mention the main villain, Voldemort, has followers literally called “death eaters” and commits violent acts of terrorism, torture and murder specifically targeting “muggles” or people with no magical abilities, and mudbloods with the goal of purifying the wizarding race.
By now you’re probably wondering why the hell I would recommend this book for children, but despite all its dark themes, Harry Potter is truly a novel all kids (and adults) need to experience. Harry, Ron, and Hermione are all excellent role models, and feminism, bravery and love all have just as an important role as the darker themes do. And ultimately, they triumph. Harry is brave and kind despite the horrific death of his parents and vile, abusive upbringing by the Dursleys. Ron is a steadfast friend, flawed, but still loyal to the end. Kids can learn so much from Harry and Ron’s friendship, including how to overcome jealously and issues of self-worth. Hermione is just as a powerful role-model and feminist icon. Hermione is incredibly smart and puts her education first, despite people making fun of her and her not having very many friends. She fights for what she believes in and fights for the rights of others, as seen through her campaign for house elf rights. Harry and Ron basically would have accomplished nothing without Hermione, and kids need to see that girls can be smart and fight for what they believe in just as much as boys can.
Ultimately, Harry Potter provides an escape. A breath-taking adventure full of magic, castles and creatures and an intricate plot that keeps you on your toes. The characters are lovable, relatable and serve as excellent role models. Hogwarts is an escape for Harry, and it can be an escape for children and adults as well. As someone who struggles with both anxiety and depression, sometimes an escape is really all I can ask for. Harry Potter made me fall in love with reading and that love has stuck with me through good and bad times, and that kind of special connection with literature is something everyone should experience, hopefully when they’re young and it can shape their lives. However, it’s never too late to fall in love with Harry Potter or with reading. J.K. Rowling herself said that “Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home” and I couldn’t agree more.