My two boys and I were shopping for school supplies at our local Target, a few months ago, when I came across a display of “Harry Potter” books. My eldest, who will turn six in November, was entering first grade, had a growing attention span, and was more capable of processing a complex narrative. I was excited to introduce him to the magical world of Harry Potter, and hopefully find something special him and I could share. He was familiar with the series, and was interested in getting a copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. When I read the series, many years ago, I got most of the books from the library, so I was happy to have an excuse to buy a copy, plus it was 20% off, and I can’t resist a deal. Who knows, maybe this will be my motivation to finally buy a complete set.
My husband and I took turns reading a chapter almost every night, for my husband, who had never read the books, but had seen the films, hearing the story as told by J.K. Rowling was a special treat. He even commented about how closely the movie followed the book, noting the impressive detail and imagination Rowling put into her work to create a story unlike what many readers had seen in years.
Beyond the amazing stories and characters she created, what I have always admired about Rowling is her respect of children and their ability to cope with difficult topics. She writes in a way that teaches morality and human decency without being patronizing. She never talks down to her readers, and has a respect for kids we could all learn from. I reminded myself of this when I wondered if my son would be ready for some of the more mature material of the series. After all, my son is younger than the recommended reading age for the series, and is also very sensitive.
I assured my son, who was a bit anxious about some of the themes he would encounter in the story, that we could stop the book at any time, and skip any part that made him feel uncomfortable. With Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, this would be tested early, as readers and movie-watchers alike understand the tragic start to Harry’s life. I hesitated when reading the beginning chapters, wondering if my son would be scared. He handled it just fine, with plenty of curiosity and questions, but with the added maturity of a child coming into his own.
As can be expected of a young child, my son sometimes had trouble keeping up with the many characters and plot twists, which meant lots of explaining and repetition on my end. Reading didn’t always go as smoothly as I would have liked. All too often, I grew impatient and frustrated, and I had to remind myself of how my son processes information and to not let that deter me from enjoying these special moments with him. I, who had already read the book and seen the film, needed to remember this was all new to my son, and to give him a chance to to understand everything.
As we neared the end of the book, my son grew more amazed with the intricate details of the story and the exciting world Rowling had created. It is fascinating as a parent to watch a child’s eyes light up in wonder when they encounter something truly spectacular. I believe he caught a bit of that Harry Potter magic many of us love so much. We closed the book after the final chapter, with my son eager to see how the story of the boy wizard would continue.
I shared the Pottermore site with my eldest and told him how I took a special test to see which Hogwarts “House” I could call home. Of course he wanted to be sorted, so we went online together, with me reading him the questions, and him giving me the answers with little hesitation — exactly as the quiz intends. To my delight, my eldest was granted entry into Slytherin, my house, and we have fun sharing this together. We joke about what houses his brother and father would be in, guessing the former is HufflePuff and the latter most likely a fellow Slytherin.
I am waiting a bit to read the next book, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Although I respect my son’s ability to handle the hard stuff, the series does get increasingly darker with each book, and I need to be mindful of his age. Perhaps, when he turns six we will continue. For now, I will enjoy how much he loved the first book, and who knows, maybe this can finally be the excuse I need to visit “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter” at Universal Studios.