By Lauren Rubenzahl, EdM, program coordinator at Children’s Center on Media and Child Health (CMCH).
Last night at midnight, the final installment of the Harry Potter movies opened in theaters, creating exhilaration and, maybe, a sense of loss for those who have grown up with Hogwarts on the brain and magic in the air.
Since his first appearance in 1997, Harry has cast a spell on the hearts of Muggle children, teens and adults everywhere. The stories have been credited with engaging tentative readers, and with getting them to read longer books than many adults thought they were ready for. But that level of engagement isn’t all magic. It’s believed that Harry’s adventures may be organized in such a way as to better connect with readers on a personal level as they age. With each book, Harry is another year older, the story is longer, and the intensity is greater. Because of this gradual maturation, legions of Potter-ites say they felt like they’ve grown up with Harry.
It’s an interesting story-telling technique, but it could present a problem for some families with young readers who are just discovering the series. When Harry’s adventures were originally released, kids had no choice but to wait the few years in between books; by the time the next one was published, they were usually ready for its content. But now the books are all readily available, so asking a young reader to wait a year or two in between installments could be met with a lot of resistance. What’s more, few parents want to discourage their children’s budding enthusiasm for reading and will allow their children to read the later Potter stories earlier than the author may have intended. (It’s suggested that his youngest readers should be about Harry’s age in any given book.) …