Back when the Harry Potter books began to gain popularity — or perhaps I should say that they began to become inescapably popular — I was often faced with the “To allow it or not to allow it” question. Amanda was too young to be interested in them on her own, and I felt that seven or eight was too young, but being the little bookworm that she is, I knew that the Harry Potter question would come up in our household at some point.
I wasn’t sure how I felt about the witchcraft issue of it. We’re not talking about Glinda the Good Witch as portrayed in the Wizard of Oz. Witchcraft, or Wicca, is real these days. In fact, each time I saw those tables set up in bookstores inspired by the Harry Potter craze about casting spells and charms, I shuddered. I knew that Harry Potter was a young boy who was sent to a school to learn witchcraft. I’m not sure I want my daughter to be so charmed by witchcraft, I thought.
So, when the discussions came up, mostly with Christian parents of children older than mine, I generally leaned to the side of “I don’t really like it.”
But. But. But what about the Wizard of Oz? What about Narnia for that matter? Or the Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings fantasy? These people who were taking a hardline stance against the magical world of Harry Potter would often endorse, allow, and even encourage entry to these magical worlds.
I had other Christian friends who had fallen in love with Harry, as adults. I had read reviews all over the blogosphere and witnessed the excitement when a new book was released. So a few years ago, I purchased years one and two, in trade paperback (my favorite binding). I decided to find out for myself if I thought these books would be appropriate for Amanda. (And to be honest, I was looking forward to being captivated myself, regardless of whether or not I decided to let Amanda read them).
Honestly, the first one didn’t really capture my heart. In fact, were it not for the declared love of the franchise from friends and reviewers whom I trust, and the fact that I had already bought Year 2, I may have just left it at that. But oh, book two. With each subsequent year, I became more impressed with J.K. Rowling’s skill of telling a great story, building suspense, and developing characters.
I decided that she could certainly read the first two books when she was ready. Finally at the end of fourth grade, she began to ask. Since she was 9 1/2 at the time, and Harry was 11 in the first book, I thought it was perfectly age appropriate. I let her begin the series, with the stipulation that I would not let her read any books that I hadn’t yet read, and that I could tell her to stop at any time.
As expected, she zipped through the first book and desperately wanted to read the second one. I made her wait a month or two, and then let her read book two. Since it was summer, she devoured that one even more quickly and begged for year three. I again made her wait a bit, knowing that I still hadn’t read book five myself. She ended up reading books three and four over the summer, and I read book five on our vacation.
At that point, I decided that she should take a little Harry break. He and his school pals are teenagers, and I generally like her to stay in an age-appropriate content level. The stories are still magically (no pun intended) wonderful, but the language is a bit harsher, and the emotions are a bit stronger.
You see, had she begun reading the books ten years ago (I mean, if she had been her present age, not a one-year old prodigy), she would have had to wait a year in between books since Rowling was still writing them. She would have grown up along with Harry, Ron, and Hermione. But being a voracious and fast and competent reader, she has the ability to polish off the whole series in less than half a year. I think it’s best for her to wait.
I’ve enjoyed sharing them with her, and I’m sure that I’ll let her read another one within this next year. But I think I’m doing her a favor. Just as I have chosen to draw out the series myself (originally with the intent of waiting for the trade paperbacks’ releases), she has the beauty of knowing that more adventure awaits her. While she waits, we’ll probably enjoy watching a few more of the movies, and perhaps I’ll encourage her to read the earlier books again if she’d like.
There’s no rush. I’ve no doubt that Harry and his friends will live forever and ever and ever. Amanda will be able to share them with her children at the time that she deems appropriate as some of her favorite childhood books.