Wednesday, September 11, 2013

What age Harry Potter?

There's not much that unites our diverse world these days, but it does seem that reading the Harry Potter series is a pretty common thread for even quasi-bookish children. When the books came out over the past 20 years, children visited book stores at midnight to buy the first editions. They're exciting. They're fun.

They're also, at times, kind of dark. So here's the question: how old were your kids when they started reading Harry Potter?

I've been debating this as I see what my 6-year-old likes to read. We've gone through the Magic Tree House series. We've enjoyed or are enjoying some classic works like Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, and Charlotte's Web. I think Harry Potter would be a lot more exciting (and epic!) than Junie B. Jones.

But we've had incidents of being scared of the dark, and he's a bit blown over by the concept of death (naturally, really -- who wouldn't be?) So I'm wondering how scary he would find Voldemort et al.

What was your experience with reading the series? How old were your kids, and how did they react?


Kristi Lea said...

My 9-year daughter old read the first book in 2nd grade (age 7), and read the second book last year. She hasn't pushed to read more, and I haven't pushed her to read more. She's probably ready to go on to the next one.

There are lots of other great book series for fantasy lovers. My daughter read the Secrets of Droon series--they're kinda like the Magic Treehouse but the kids jump through a magic portal into a fantasy world. The Chronicles of Narnia are also good. She's into Percy Jackson books, and the Warrior series that involve clans of feral cats--at some point, though, these books cross over into young adult rather than the middle grade and, like Harry Potter, start taking on more adult subjects.

My 6-year old boy loves Captain Underpants and adaptations of superhero books/movies. And Star Wars. Both kids also love reading non-fiction science books.

nicoleandmaggie said...

DC1 wasn't interested at age 4 or age 5, but at age 6 he devoured books one and two. (He's currently watching movie #2.) DH and I had a long discussion and checked the internet's discussions, and decided that book 3 was ok, but we should suggest he wait on books 4+.

After that discussion with DC1, he decided to reread the entire Magic Treehouse series from start to finish and has plans to start book 3 after that.

I don't think the first two books are any darker than Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh, and unlike Charlotte's Web, there will be no crying at the end.

lindam said...

My 3rd grader read 1&2 in first grade, 3 in 2nd grade (and did way better with the dementors than I thought she would since she is also prone to scary dreams.) She's watched all 3 movies MANY times. I haven't let her read #4 yet, mostly because of the middle school dynamics (crushes, first kisses). I will probably cave by the end of this year, but that was my reasoning. I think you're very safe with 1&2.

By the way, the biggest mistake I made was to get the 8 DVD set - now she sees that she has all of the movies and gets reminded to ask about them. If you get the dvd set, hide the later ones.

She went through ALL of the cat warriors books (kept her busy for months although there are some fairly advanced concepts in them) and she has now read the Percy Jackson books a number of times. She does like the secrets of droon, too.

Good luck.

Anonymous said...

My daughter is 10 and has read the series like a zillion times. I think she read the first book around age 7. We let her self censor when it comes to reading and she does a pretty good job of it. At this point she's still obsessed with HP, but is actually -- finally -- bored with the books. So I got her "The Philosophy of Harry Potter" the "Ethics of Harry Potter" "Teaching Harry Potter" and so on none of which are for children at all.

Maryann said...

Our daughter finished the series last week, the day before she turned 9.

She is often scared of movies and would get to parts in the books where she didn't want to continue reading. So she would put them down and walk away. She and I started reading the first book together when she was 6, but she was self-regulating; not getting too far ahead of her ability to cope with the content.

She finished the last book in two days. One of our rules is that she couldn't watch the movie before the book was finished. It's help her deal with her movie fears as well, because she knows what happens.

Dori said...

My son, now 9 1/2, read books one through five when he was 7 or 8 years old. Prone to being spooked, he seemed to have no problems or anxieties. We didn't let him go on to books six or seven, which we heard were darker and more mature.

The problem was finding other books he could read that would be as compelling as the Harry Potter series. Some he has enjoyed that have a similar, fantasy bent include the "How to Train Your Dragon" series -- he loves those and insists that I buy each new one the week it's released. Then he reads them in 48 hours or less, but it's money well spent to see him devour them.

He also liked the Percy Jackson books, at least the first few. Other titles were "Hugo Pepper" and "The Land of Stories."

I think PP who mentioned reading aloud is on the right track. You can begin by reading the first 5-10 chapters aloud and see how your son reacts. That should be your best guide.

In general, I've found that my kids scare easily at movies but do not have the same frightening experience reading scary books. I guess they choose to skim over the scary parts and not really picture what's happening.

Harriet said...

My son was obsessed with them at age 5 -- I think he was attracted to them because they made an impressive wall on the bookshelf -- and tore through the first three. He started the fourth book an quickly decided it was too old for him. He eventually read the whole series several times over. Now he's 12 and we're reading them out loud. They're old friends that need visiting every now and then, much the way the Little House books were for me.

nicoleandmaggie said...

Check out Diana Wynne Jones, particularly the Chrestomanci series. ("If you like JK Rowling, you'll love Diana Wynne Jones")

Pinomene said...

My daughter read books one through five when she was six, though I think books four and five went over her head a bit.

Calee said...

Have you done The Hobbit yet? It makes for a great read aloud (if you can get past the first half of the first chapter) and was a good indicator of scary in our house. Decision- book was fine, movie was way, way too scary.
Also, what about A Wrinkle in Time. He could read that quartet. For some reason, I really want Audrey to wait with Harry Potter, or at least do them as read alouds first.

GeekToMom said...

Books 1-3 at age 6, the rest at age 7. The scariest part for my daughter wasn't the dementors or Voldemort - it was Harry and Ron being in danger of being expelled!

Jen said...

Hi Laura,

I empathize with your plight. My daughter read Harry Potter (at almost 8) after I'd vetoed her first choice: Lord of the Flies.The HP books didn't trouble her, but she had nightmares after watching the first two films a year later.

Adding to the list of great series others have proposed: The Mysterious Benedict Society, The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place, Tom Swift and the old Nancy Drew.

Also, check out the Johns Hopkins CTYOnline Young Readers course listings for ideas.

Anonymous said...

The original idea for the HP series was that kids would start reading it around 11 (the age of the main characters in the first book) and then grow up with the characters (that's why the books were _supposed_ to be published at the rate of one per year). As such, after book 3, the series starts to take on some teenage themes, as well as some darker elements. Books 1-3 should be okay. 4 is where it starts to get dark.

Another series you could try is the Artemis Fowl series. It's about a child prodigy, and it's a lot of fun.

Anonymous said...

My Daughter, aged 7, has just finished all 7 books. She absolutely loved them and has understood and taken away bits that I missed when I read them! She has not been at all scared and has really embraced them and is now going back to re-read it to make sure she has got all the bits that she wants out of it! I've had to buy e-books as my paper versions started to fall apart! Saying that she is not afraid as they are fantasy - she was given Vicky Angel by Jacqueline Wilson by the school librarian and cried her eyes out and had to get me to take it away after 3 chapters.

Anonymous said...

I'm a little late to the party, but my 6-year old son has been absolutely enthralled with the entire series. He's finishing up the final book after a month of nonstop HP consumption. I worried, at first, that the themes were too sophisticated for him (and in many ways, they are), but I've found that he's reading them on whatever level he's interested in right now. I expect that in a couple years, he'll revisit them and find something new to love. This will likely occur a few times until he understands all the nuances of love, fear, risk, darkness, sacrifice, etc. We have always taken the approach that if his little brain can read something, then it is our responsibility to read with him and help him interpret what is often beyond his life experience. There are definitely challenges to having children who read ahead of the curve, but I firmly believe that limiting access to literature they are capable of reading and understanding does a great mind no service.