Since the release of the first instalment in 1997, the Harry Potter series has had a massive impact on the world of children's literature. Acclaimed worldwide, the seven-novel series chronicles the adventures of Harry Potter, a young wizard, and his many adventures at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The books are chock-full of magic, school-age woes, friendship, narrow escapes and the age-old battle between good and evil as Harry faces the evil wizard Lord Voldemort time and again. Touted as a literary phenomenon, the Harry Potter series has been praised by educators for its ability to keep kids turning the pages. While the series is subject to criticism surrounding the often dark subject matter, research has shown that Harry Potter has various positive effects on children.
The most cut-and-dry positive effect of the Harry Potter books is increasing literacy among young people. The novels have the uncanny ability to keep kids and adults alike turning the thousands of pages that make up the series. In its 2006 Kids and Family Reading Report, Scholastic looked to collect quantitative data on the effect that the series was having on young readers. According to the study, 51 per cent of children who read the Harry Potter series said that they did not read for fun before reading the books. The same study indicates that 65 per cent of children said that they were doing better in school in general as a result of their exposure to the Harry Potter series.
Morality and Friendship
A study in the Journal of Moral Education in 2002 suggested that the Harry Potter series provides children valuable lessons in morality and friendship. Early in the series, the study notes, morality is often painted in black and white. Distinctions between good and evil are simple and clear. As the series progresses, the stories become more morally ambiguous, encouraging children to put more thought into the differences between right and wrong. Throughout the books, Harry's survival and success is often owed to the friendships he has cultivated and his ethical decision making.
The Power of Positive Thinking
As they progress through their studies, the young wizards can produce spells only by focus and faith in their abilities. In the third instalment of the Harry Potter series, "Harry Potter and the Prizoner of Azkaban," the young wizards face a mythical creature called a boggart in their defence-against-the-dark-arts class. The boggart is both a pest and a shape shifter, turning itself into what the person facing it most fears. The boggart itself feeds on fear and anger; therefore, the only way to defeat a boggart is to control your emotions and think of something happy. Repeatedly throughout the stories, the young wizards face something scary and find the power within themselves to overcome it.
At Hogwarts, students are separated into four houses: Gryffindor, Slytherin, Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw. Throughout the year, the houses compete for the honour of the House Cup. Individually, students can earn and lose points for their houses, building a sense of communal responsibility. Each student feels pride and responsibility for their respective house. In addition, the headmaster of Hogwarts, Albus Dumbledore, serves as a moral compass for the students, emphasising that the power to make the right choices when faced with adversity is one of great importance.
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- Scholastic: Harry Potter Press Release
- "Journal of Research in Character Education"; Children's moral reading of Harry Potter: Are children and adults reading the same books?; Whitney, M., Vozzola, E. & Hofmann, J.; 2005
- Positive Psychology News: Back to School Resilience-Harry Potter Style
- Positive Psychology News: Harry Potter and the Power of the Positive
- "Harry Potter and International Relations"; Daniel H. Nexon and Iver B. Neumann; 2006