Parenting In the Harry Potter Era

By Laurie Sanchez

Once upon a time, in a land far away, I was the mother of a 9-year-old when the first Harry Potter movie came out.

I was at a soccer banquet the night before it premiered, helping pass out some end-of-the-year soccer cake, making chit-chat with one of the fathers next to me, and I asked if he was going to take his little soccer star to the new Harry Potter movie. “Oh, no!” he said, looking at me like I’d suddenly grown horns. “We’re Christian.”

I think I stood there, my mouth agape, for at least a minute. I’m pretty sure the cake slid to the floor. Aside from feeling like I’d been accused of raising devil children, I couldn’t quite think of how to respond. (This was 2001, and that kind of controversy was just getting brewing – excuse the pun. I hadn’t, until then, learned that some groups were boycotting the book and, suddenly that year, the movie.)

Since then, of course, there have been a total of seven novels, six movies, and plenty of controversy regarding Harry Potter and the appropriateness of its “magic.” Each year, the Harry Potter books feature on the most-banned books list.

But here’s what I know: Harry Potter got my son to read.

That’s all. For me, that was its “magic.” Any author who can weave thousands of words to hold children mesmerized in that wide-eyed, love-of-words way has my big thumbs-up. There’s a “magic,” all right, but the “magic” is getting kids to sit up late at night with flashlights under the covers, eager to get to the next scene. The “magic” is getting a 4th grade boy to turn word-filled pages faster than those of a comic book. And the “magic” was creating a bonding event and tradition for me and my oldest son that I fondly remember to this day – just he and I would attend each of the premier events, leaving Dad and younger siblings at home. As the avid “readers” in the family, it became “our thing.” (As a note: my son has always been about the exact age of “Harry,” so has literally grown up with him, and my son is now – be still my heart – considering becoming an English major.)

We talked about Harry Potter and its themes – choices, friendship, loyalty, etc. – the way you’d talk about any form of literature. And we talked about the creativity involved in completely making up a new sport (it’s hard! Try it!) like Quiddich, and the skill it would take to bring it to the screen. We talked about creating language, and we even had a discussion about weaving truth and fiction (i.e., I didn’t know those life-size chess boards really do exist in English gardens!).

As for the books still showing up on the most-banned-books list, J.K. Rowling says, on her Web site, “As this puts me in the company of Harper Lee, Mark Twain, J.D. Salinger, William Golding, John Steinbeck and other writers I revere, I have always taken my annual inclusion on the list as a great honour.”

How about you – Have you had to make decisions for young readers in the Harry Potter era? What book first got you to read when you were a child?


Laurie Sanchez lives in Southern California with her hubby and three kids and is putting the polishing touches on her first manuscript. She also blogs as Mizwrite.

Comments

  1. Fun post Laurie! I think you're right - any book that gets kids reading is a great book - in my book! Hmm...when I was a kid it was Choose Your Own Adventures! Loved those. And the Ramona books. ;) Cheers!

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  2. If you're looking for a good movie for the kids, the 2010 remake of Jack and the Beanstalk is a great one that demonstrates good values and morals. I watched it with my son and we both LOVED it. Become a fan of the Jack and the Beanstalk facebook page and you can watch the trailer and read about the cast, plus get ideas for fun family activities - http://www.facebook.com/pages/Jack-and-the-Beanstalk/109969562361625

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  3. That whole Harry Potter-Christian business was not exclusively, but mostly an American thing I think. We didn't have that same experience here (Canada). I've read to my kids since they were born so now books are just a part of the conversation.

    There are so many great children's books out there - classics and newer ones.

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  4. How cool that your son and Harry Potter grew up together.

    I loved this, Laurie:

    'I think I stood there, my mouth agape, for at least a minute. I’m pretty sure the cake slid to the floor. Aside from feeling like I’d been accused of raising devil children, I couldn’t quite think of how to respond.'

    LOL! I wrote a review for the novel version of The Golden Compass over on my blog that got a huge conversation going in the comments section, led by Christian lurkers I'd never encountered before. Weird.

    I'm a massive fan of the Harry Potter films (only read book one but devour every film.) For my childhood books, it was the Chronicles of Narnia. And yes, I do love the latest adaptations of them.

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  5. Harry Potter got my dad reading - lol! And that's a good thing. PS - He's also a Christian. :) Extreme subgroups everywhere it seems.

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