Friday, July 15, 2011
Harry Potter, welcome here...
Fast forward a few years. A blog Tim followed, a good Catholic blog, featured a post about Harry Potter. The blog author had read the books, all 7 of them, one after another, in about a week’s span. He wrote about how he had heard the negative impressions from other Christians but went ahead and read the books himself to see if he agreed. In doing so, he discovered wonderfully written stories exploring themes of good vs. evil and, in his opinion, promoting the noble values of sacrifice, love, and friendship. Now at the same time Tim happened upon this blog, we were struggling to find worthwhile books for our (then) 8 year old son. Our son, like the rest of us, is a voracious reader, flying through books at an alarming rate. He also happens to read at a reading level about 6 times above his grade level. This presents quite a difficult dilemma. I want to encourage my children to read books that challenge them, that teach them, that help them to be better people and that help them to understand themselves and others better. For an 8 year old who reads like a high schooler this is a difficult challenge. He had read all the Narnia books, he had read the Hobbit and he had read countless other books, many of them mindless, that we found along the way. It was getting to be very hard to find books that were worthwhile. He was, at that point, spending most of his reading time with his nose buried in Hardy Boys books, age appropriate maybe, but certainly not very educational or literary. So, we considered Harry Potter. Was it possible these books we had written off as evil, could actually be acceptable? We researched as much as we could, browsing Catholic website after Catholic website to get as many opinions as we could. There were, as expected, various viewpoints and mindsets. We decided there was really only one way to find out for sure if the books were good or evil, Tim and I would read them first. Neither he nor I really wanted to. I had no interest in wizard books. He had little time for pleasure reading. But, about three pages in, each of us was hooked. The stories are well written. They do explore the battle of good and evil. And like good stories do, they suck you in. With rapt attention, Tim and I both flew through the books, all seven of them, on the edge of our seats the entire time. After we finished each book we would anxiously await the other finishing so we could discuss the twists and turns of the plot and speculate about the characters.
Needless to say, we have decided that Harry is welcome in our home. We have allowed our oldest to read all the books, though we were still cautious about it. After the third book the themes become much darker and more disturbing. So our son, who is now 10, has only been permitted to read the first three books. He has read them each several times over. Harry Potter is not a perfect role model for children. He is sneaky at times. He is disobedient quite often. But in the end he chooses good. He chooses sacrifice over personal comfort. He chooses to care for his friends rather than do what is easy and safe. He chooses to stand up for what he believes in. The stories do promote the values we want to encourage in our children. They have opened up a lot of discussion about good vs. evil and about magic and the occult. They have offered Tim and I the opportunity to teach our children things about our faith and the teachings of our Church that had not yet come up in life before reading Harry Potter.
The last Harry Potter movie debuted today. We were not quite so Harry-crazy that we were in line at midnight to see it. In fact, our children have only seen the first two movies, so far. Though we love the stories we are not quite ready to expose our little ones to the intensity of the later movies. Still, Tim and I do hope to get to the theater sometime in the next few weeks so he and I can see it.