There are few things that I love more than Harry Potter. I read the series when it came out, devouring one book at a time and counting down the minutes until the next book came out. I read them all, and read them again. And again. I lost my 15-year-old self in a world of magic and wonder. As I grew up, so did Harry and Hermione and Ron. We matured together, from learning how to hold a wand to saving the goddamn magical world. I laughed, I cried (so much crying), I cheered, and I hurt. One of the things I looked forward to most after having my own kids was reading Harry Potter with them. I knew, I just KNEW, that it would be an integral part of their lives. And as it turns out, it might just make them better people, too.
According to a new paper published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, reading Harry Potter “significantly improved young peoples’ perception of stigmatized groups like immigrants, homosexuals or refugees.”
This shouldn’t be surprising to anyone who’s read the books. The entire series is full of messages of tolerance, good guys fighting bad guys, and fighting against bigotry. When kids identify with and form emotional attachments to characters like Harry, they’re more likely to have improved feelings toward minority groups and immigrants. Researchers conducted three studies: one with Italian fifth graders, one with Italian high school kids, and one with college students in the UK. In the fifth grade group, the kids who read passages from the books had more positive attitudes towards immigrants than the control group, but only if they felt a connection or identified with Harry.
In the high school group, the kids who identified with Harry had more positive perceptions of LGBT people.
In the third study, with college-aged young people, researchers did not find an association between an emotional attachment to Harry and perceptions of refugees. But, they did find that people who had less of an emotional bond with Voldemort had better attitudes toward the group.
We’re also seeing this play out in real time, right now. Remember in Order of the Phoenix, when the students rose up to defeat the Ministry of Magic? Sounds a lot like what’s happening with Parkland survivors and our current government, no?
Harry Potter is fantasy, yes. But the best books, even the ones that aren’t real or even close to being real, make the connection between the magic on the pages and the struggles the reader faces in real life.
And the REALLY good ones, like HP, make the reader a better person with each turn of the page.
Reading Harry Potter with your kids is one of the best things you can do, trust me. At the very least, you’ll be prepared when they grow up and save the goddamn world.
(Image: Facebook/Harry Potter)