When Will My Child Be Ready For Harry Potter?Jul 13, 2023
A dear friend once asked me for advice on what age group is ready to read/watch Harry Potter, as I love giving parental advice and have read/seen all the Harry Potter stories. For some quick background, her nearly 5-year-old expressed a strong interest in reading suspenseful stories. This sweet girl is very precocious, and her parents have done a fabulous job helping her to develop an early love of reading. They had already read the first two Harry Potter books together and had seen the corresponding movies. Before embarking further down the Harry Potter path, Mom wanted to check with me because she had heard the later stories are geared toward an older audience and was worried that she may have introduced the series too soon.
The short answer was yes, it’s too early for Harry Potter, even for an advanced reader interested in thrilling stories. The series becomes markedly more mature in books 3 and 4 and is really quite intense in books 5, 6, and 7 – lots of tension and sorrow. The books are not developmentally appropriate for a 4 or 5-year-old. I suggested to my friend that they might read book 3 if they’re not ready to take a break yet but to definitely wait to watch the movie. Dementors are the stuff that nightmares are made of.
A Harry Potter lover will want to read the entire series at once, so plan ahead with your kids and suggest the first book only when they’re old enough to read the seventh book. That probably means around age 10 or 11. That may seem ridiculously old if you think of this as a children’s book but remember that Harry is 11 years old when he first goes to Hogwarts, and he ages 7 years during the series, so if you wait to introduce your child to the character until he’s closer to that age, they’ll probably enjoy the series even more.
How can you possibly know what books are appropriate for your kids without having read them all previously? I rely on commonsensemedia.org as a reference tool for age-appropriate media. Having objective data is really helpful when your kids want to watch a movie that you think is too mature; I just check this website with them and show them the age recommendations, and they understand that they have to wait. Common Sense Media has a whole page on the Harry Potter series: https://www.commonsensemedia.org/blog/harry-potter-age-by-age-guide.
The good news I offered my friend is there are so many other amazing series for her daughter to read now and in the coming years. The book Some of My Best Friends are Books by Judith Wynn Halstead is an excellent resource for advanced readers which provides all sorts of good book ideas. Librarians at your child’s school and public library will likely have great ideas for your child’s age range, in addition to their teachers. A fantastic series similar to Harry Potter but geared towards a younger reader is Septimus Heap.
My kids loved The Chronicles of Narnia; there are a few scary elements, but they are limited to the fantasy world (the beloved humans all turn out fine). Boys especially tend to love the Warriors series about rival cat clans. My girl loved the Thea Stilton adventure series (companion to the Geronimo Stilton series). The Stilton series is neat because it has wild fonts interspersed throughout the text, so it’s fun for parents to read and have early readers jump in to read the fun font words without being overwhelmed by reading the entire page.
The Percy Jackson series is really entertaining and has two books called Greek Gods and Greek Heroes that were quite educational and we all enjoyed. There are some gruesome elements, but it has a lighthearted tone and, again, is fantasy with gods and goddesses, being set in the past, so the gore is further removed for the kids, but there is some mature language.
The A to Z Mysteries, Milo & Jazz Mysteries, and Magic Tree House series have been big hits here and are very benign for younger children. So far, nobody in my family has loved Nancy Drew, but that’s an option along with Hardy Boys. I told my friend to blame it on her psychologist friend and objective data from Common Sense Media but that Harry Potter should wait while one of these other series will have her daughter captured in no time!
On a side note, I strongly believe that the Harry Potter books, and all books for that matter, should be read before any movies based on the books are watched. Especially for children who are endlessly creative, let them envision the characters in their own unique way for the entire lifespan of the story, then superimpose Hollywood’s version of the characters by watching all the films together. When you do watch the films, it’s fun to ask the kids how the actors playing the characters differed from or were similar to their own image of the storybook characters. Happy reading!
Selecting age-appropriate material is part of the Choices & Checkpoints category in my 5 C’s parenting framework (see The 5 C’s to Amazing Parenting). To view more posts in this category, use the category search menu on the right of your screen. Keep up the good work on your amazing parenting journey!
P.S. For all my best digital media-related tips for you and your children, check out my Screen Time Masterclass. Continue your journey to becoming an amazing parent with this value-loaded Masterclass on screen time for children of all ages. Imagine feeling confident about the protocol you set in place for your family’s screen usage and confident that your children will stick with the plan. Plus, there is a must-have add-on lesson focusing on social media. I can’t wait to guide you to screen time success. Check out my Screen Time Masterclass.
Also, check out my Treasures - Books for a wonderful resource of books and book series that have been treasured by our family as well as my Treasures - Screen Time to find some great shows for young children and a beginner’s guide to video gaming.