I mean it in a very literal sense when I say that the Harry Potter franchise is responsible for core parts of who I am and, at one point, saved my life.
Let me shine some light on this. I was the only reader in my family and Harry Potter granted me a solace and place of belonging in a life where everything about me was different. I was bookish, not athletic enough, bisexual and by all accounts, a troubled child. Religion wasn’t a part of my life and I was vehemently against it, flirting between agnostic and atheist depending on which way the wind blew. I grew up hearing multiple arguments for and against children reading the Harry Potter series, and ironically, am now a Christian convert mother of three. Christians have been, historically, the most vocal group against the popular children’s series, and having seen both sides, I’m here to tell you five reasons why I feel every child, especially a Christian child, should read the Harry Potter franchise.
1.) The Friendships
You can say what you want about the books but I will die on the hill of the Golden Trio. People like to insult the friendship between the three main characters, but in my opinion, Ron, Harry and Hermione have it all figured out. Though their start wasn’t the best, it was real. Two young outcast boys teased and then befriended the unpopular girl to form a solid bond for a lifetime. Throughout the series they do save each other’s lives, and grades, but there’s much more than that. They fight! I love seeing healthy portrayals of the petty, dramatic and blown-up drama that can drive wedges between people and then seeing them be overcome out of love for one another. It’s a wonderful contrast to Draco and his two goons, who are meant to show an unhealthier trio that isn’t formed out of respect or friendship. Throughout the story, we see many friendships form and break, in realistic and painful ways that are handled and dealt with in ways young children need to learn about. We get to witness the unwavering friendship of Luna, a quiet and underrated love that no one truly appreciates until it’s needed. Harry Potter teaches forgiveness, love and putting other’s first. Those are three of the core ideals of the Christian faith.
2.) The Parental Relationships
Another important aspect of Harry Potter are the relationships with parents. There’s still a level of deceit that goes on (Hermione doesn’t tell her parents everything about what happens at school and Dean Thomas admits he doesn’t either in the later books) but that’s developmentally normal for teenagers. The kids in question are still good kids, not bad influences. But the Weasley children, for all their moaning about corny sweaters at Christmas, love and respect their parents. They push them (cough, twins, cough) but still remain firmly within safe boundaries. There was a lot of focus on the Weasley family, poor and large and struggling, and their enormous hearts for others and loyalty to each other. Even when some wandered, they came back. I loved seeing such a positive display of family dynamics that showed everyone at their worst and best and together through it all.
Hagrid and Sirius, adopted fathers for all intents and purposes, were shown in different lights, but were both very clearly flawed individuals who deeply loved Harry. It showed a different type of love, one not biological but just as strong.
I also have to mention, briefly, the obvious; James and Lily Potter gave their lives to save their son without a single hesitation. This wasn’t done in a grand display of heroics and grandeur; it takes a while for us to learn and it’s stated as a wonderful thing, but very matter of fact.
But for all the good, there’s bad. We also get to see realistic portrayals of neglect, manipulation and ignorance. Between Tom Riddle, Draco Malfoy, Merope Gaunt, Dudley Dursley and a few others, we see the range of well-meaning but harmful to straight up abusive POS parenting and how it can affect children and their lives. It’s a nasty sight, but one just as important to understanding those around us and promoting empathy of others.
3.) Acceptance and Tolerance
This gets a bit muddled because as an adult, I can see problematic representation and themes regarding race and sexuality throughout in subtle ways. Cho Chang is an exotic love interest, the Patil twins are recurring but insignificant and then later dates for the boys, and there’s a strange lack of Black witches and wizards at Hogwarts. But in a broad sense that children will see sooner, is the intolerance of hate and oppression. The franchise focuses on the various rise and fall of Voldemort and his followers, the Death Eaters. They represent, quite bluntly, a white supremacist group snuffing out and enslaving Muggles, Muggle-Borns and other ‘lesser’ beings. It’s all very reminiscent of the Holocaust, and Harry Potter is an excellent tool to teach about the dangers of bigotry and tribalism if you can also address the problems that lie within the pages concerning a lack of representation. It would be remiss not to.
Tolerance and acceptance are, again, key teachings of the Christian belief system.
4.) Women are smart, too.
The smartest character in the book is Hermione. While it’s up for debate about the canonical race of the character, she’s possibly a Black girl who can outwit and outdebate and out-perform nearly every character they encounter in the series. It’s important for children, especially Christian children who can sometimes be led to believe women are meant to be quiet and subservient, to see a strong and intelligent girl kick complete ass. Hermione is a diligent student, a fiercely loyal friend who owns her friends accountable and an all-around caring person of alleged lesser blood who never lets it get in the way of her fight for equality and knowledge. A most definite role model.
Professor Minerva McGonagall, as well, sneaks into this subheading. McG is not one to be trifled with. A harsh disciplinarian with a sharp tongue, she’s a pillar of morality who stands by her students and her beliefs no matter the consequences. She gets to know them and is one of the first to stand by Harry Potter when the real trouble begins. She’s also an honorary member of the parent-type relationship, as her love for her students is evident and the care she gives genuine. She’s a stand-in mother for Harry.
5.) Nobody is perfect.
Perhaps the second most important lesson in Harry Potter is that of imperfection. We see a lot of character growth in the story, from the main characters and supporting characters, and it highlights the Christian teaching that no one is perfect, but forgiven. Percy comes home, Draco has some redeeming moments at the end, and the characters are fluid, living beings who learn and grow from their mistakes without letting them run their lives. Children can be focused on their mess ups. Harry Potter teaches you to embrace them and move on. It was, maybe, one of the hardest lessons I learned during a trouble childhood, and today Harry Potter remains a key factor in my ability to do so.
6.) Neville Longbottom
From rags to riches in courage, Neville is a study in all things brave and integrity. From a simpering kid who couldn’t stand up to his friends breaking the rules to delivering an iconic speech, wounded, to the Dark Lord with fight in his words, Neville is the purest of souls and everyone should know about the boy willing to risk it all when he knew he’d fail. He, too, will live on in all of us.
Harry Potter has a lot to teach us, and Christians who protest the franchise because of magic miss out on a lot. Riddled with lessons on friendship and honesty and love and courage and acceptance, Harry Potter is a driving force in the empathy rise in people my age. A study has shown those who read it are more empathetic and accepting of others, and I fail to see how that’s something Christian families would want their children to be deprived of.