Summer Reading: Harry Potter Series

harrypotterUnlike basically everyone on the planet who self-identifies as a reader, I made it to 2015 without reading the Harry Potter series.  I don’t have anything against fantasy as a genre–in fact, I like it–but didn’t really have any impetus pick up the books until I found myself with elementary aged fantasy fans in the house.

Although I’ve read enough reviews by people I respect to figure I’d be ok with the books, I did want to read them as my kids did, so that we could talk over any potential problems or issues.  And so, this spring, I tore through the seven volumes in quick succession (that and empty carbs seemed like the only things I could stomach due to morning sickness) and found I quite liked them.

If you do have topical or thematic concerns with the books, I’d encourage you to read them before you make up your mind.  Personally I found them to be much more about how to handle being different, how to make good decisions when evil seems easier, and the importance of taking advice from wiser authority figures than about witchcraft as a religion.  I made notes as I read so that I could identify all of the topics I thought would make for good discussion, and I appreciated the many examples of bravery, integrity, taking a stand for what’s right, and so on.  I also liked how the stories ring true in the characterization of middle school/high school aged kids, and also take a firm line against the stereotypical sappy/drippy teen angst thing (several characters confront each other when tempted to indulge in martyr complexing and pity partying).

I do think the books increase in difficulty and complexity as the series progresses.  However, the series is pretty engrossing, so I think it makes for a good stretch if you have a kid who can handle the first two books but might need to reach a bit for the later ones.

Depending on when your school resumes, it might be a bit late in the game to recommend a series of seven long books for summer reading, but if you’re like us and fly through them you have plenty of time to read theHarry Potter series and then talk them over together!


If you’ve read the Harry Potter series with your kids, what issues or topics were most memorable for you?


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9 thoughts on “Summer Reading: Harry Potter Series

        1. Our library has a great summer reading program–at least if you act fast. You can trade your points for stuff like free museum passes, free baseball game tickets, free new books, etc. Or if, like us, you go out of town in July and are left with hundreds of points at the end of the program, you can trade them for dried up bubbles and temporary tattoos that look like fingerprints. 🙂 Next year, we will pounce earlier!

  1. Thank you for the review- I have never read the books and would like to. What age would you recommend a child be to read the books? I have a seven year old who is a voracious reader. I’m wondering when the content would be appropriate for her.

    1. Gabrielle, this is an issue we run into a lot with my older two (now 9 1/2 and just turned 8). Both of mine deal with reading intensity pretty well, although one of them can NOT watch intense things like on movies. My just turned 8 year old read the first five books of the series very quickly while he was still 7 1/2 ish, but then about halfway through book 6 I noticed he set the series aside in favor of other things. He has read the Lord of the Rings trilogy, so I know it’s not a reading level thing, but I think it might be the intensity of some of the action and issues that overwhelmed him. He still talks about Harry Potter stuff so I think he will pick the books back up eventually.

      You might want to pre-read the series with your child in mind. The first 4-5 books would probably be totally doable, but the last two do get intense. Actually, maybe I’d include book 5 in that too. It’s not inappropriate, just intense. And you probably know your child well enough to know how he or she would handle it or if you might need to give it 6 months or a year and see.

      1. I know exactly what you mean. I can see that my younger daughter definitely cannot handle intense things in books or movies. I think my older daughter seems ok with it. I’ll pre-read them and maybe save them for next summer 🙂
        Thanks for your thoughtful reply.

    2. I am reading book 6 with my 10 year old son. It is intense. I have heard so many kids who were 7 or 8 when they read the whole series and I just can’t imagine. We read the first four books last summer. Then I realized we needed to slow down. So we do one at Christmas break and one during the summer. I think if you started with that pace, it would spread it out enough so your daughter will be a good age when she gets to books 6 and 7.

      1. Megan, that’s a good idea to space the books out as treats for breaks. I often think about things like what age would be best for discovering certain books, since with strong readers it’s not so much about being able to read it as when the issues will have the most impact. I think if my 9 1/2 year old re-reads the series as a teen, she will almost certainly have different take-aways than she did this year (just based on our discussions so knowing what things resonated with her at this stage versus things that I made note of and aren’t as relevant for her now).

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