Reading Harry Potter for the first time

“He didn’t realize that love as powerful as your mother’s for you leaves its own mark. Not a scar, no visible sign… to have been loved so deeply, even though the person is gone, will give us some protection forever. It is in your very skin.”

I may have had to work extra hard to keep my voice steady when I read those workds aloud to Hudson last night. We just finished the first book in the Harry Potter series—together. It was my first time reading it, too; and I would read aloud each night while both Hudson and Aron (a long-time fan) would listen. I can see why this has been a memorable experience for so many.

We waited until Hudson was six to start the series—this was a Christmas gift—and have tried to prepare him that there will be a wait before we read more. Perhaps a new book every six months or every year? I asked a while back, at what age is the right time to begin Harry Potter, and loved hearing from some of you on your experiences…

“Reading Harry Potter to our oldest (now 8) is probably one of my all-time favorite parenting experiences. She’s been obsessed with big complicated stories since she was tiny and she’s fearless when it comes to fiction so she was pretty young when we read it (Five when we started and six when we finished, I think). We’ve since discovered she’s dyslexic. While she can’t yet read books like Harry Potter on her own, we have no doubt her absolute obsession with fiction can be traced back to being immersed in a whole new world with her parents for a year. There’s something magical about living in one series for that long.” —Elisabeth

“I started reading Harry Potter to [our son] when he was about 7, and it took us about 2 or 3 years to get through all the books. I read to him every night for about 15 minutes. Sometimes I didn’t want to (after an extra busy day, when I was sick, etc.), but I came to really appreciate the ritual. And now he still likes to snuggle with me after I read aloud and before falling asleep (at age 10–probably won’t last long!). To be honest, I replaced some of the words in the books when he was younger to make the story a little less violent or creepy. Now we’re reading a series that he picked out and I just can’t stand it…makes me long for the Harry Potter days!”—Jenna

“My son, 7 (now in 2nd grade) read the first two this past summer while on a beach vacation. (He is definitely an advanced reader though). I was a little worried about book #2 and how things got darker. I ended up getting a copy for myself and we both read it at the same time. It was such a great bonding experience! He had the chance to read independently but was able to ask plot questions along the way and every day we would chat about the chapters we read—what happened, what might happen next etc. I definitely recommend it! Especially with other kids in the family, it’s hard to carve out those bonding/shared moments.” —Ziac

“All three of my daughters read the series and all loved it. As my oldest daughter is 30, she read along with Harry as they were almost the same age. She waited for the release of each book and loved every moment of his adventure. The other girls came to the book at about the same age (10). Their main comments when they see younger kids reading this book is – are they really understanding what they are reading? The concepts can be quite sophisticated and it would be a shame to not be able to fully appreciate the story. … As they get towards the end the story it gets quite dark.” —Shelley

“My sister-in-law and her husband started reading Harry Potter to their 6-year-old son. They’ve had to edit the story quite a bit, though, due to his ability to get scared quickly. They finished 2 books with him, but they’re deal is that he has to read the 3rd one himself. This motivates him to learn how to read and he can also determine when he can put it away when he’s too scared.” —Jane

“Both my husband and I read the books in our early 20s and stopped [after book five] I think, because that was all that was out at the time. My son became interested, and I suggested he try reading it when he was nearing the end of 2nd grade. He thought it was scary and couldn’t stay interested in it. This was him reading it alone, though. Then the summer before 4th grade he became obsessed with Harry Potter. He decided to give it another try after he heard a bunch of his friends had read the books. He read all eight books and we allowed him to watch each movie after he read the book. He’s now in 5th grade and has decided he wanted to read them through a second time—and he’s already on the third book.” —Cindy

Indeed, the books get darker and more complex as they go along, which was ideal for those growing up alongside the books. Aron also told Hudson that the latest books are best for when you’re older because they deal with subjects you’re more interested in when you’re older—”like girls” and romance—to which Hudson let out a big groan that had us all laughing.

Have you read Harry Potter? Have your kids? At what age do you think is best and how do you or did you plan to pace the books? And what about the movies? 

P.S. Beloved reads for children around the world, and a recent round-up of fantastic books inspired by Dr. King for a dose of social justice. Also, I’m working on a post about favorite first chapter books, more generally. Any suggestions to add?


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