Ten Points for Gryffindor! Because Science Says Reading Harry Potter Makes Kids Better People
Having books in the home is so important for raising children, and while you are stocking those bookshelves, you might want to save a couple feet on the shelf for the Harry Potter series. Not only is it wonderful and fun and full of magic and delight, research suggests that it also helps kids grow up to be good and decent human beings.
According to the Journal of Applied Psychology, children who read Harry Potter and identify with the child wizards and witches are less likely to be prejudiced against marginalized or stigmatized groups.
Researchers surveyed high school students and found that kids who identified with Harry Potter, specifically, were more likely to be positive and supporting of their LGBT peers.
One study that looked at U.K. college students did not find that identifying with Potter made people more likely to have a positive attitude about refugees, but students who said they identified with Voldemort did have a more negative attitude towards refugees. That seems to make sense but honestly, who identifies with Voldemort? I mean, I generally go in for the bad guys in most media, but Voldemort has no redeeming back story or noble goals or even understandable emotional motivations. He’s just evil. Snape? Sure, I can see identifying with Snape. He’s complicated and deep and has a lot of conflicting motivations and is very interesting. But Voldemort? Who shows up to Team Voldemort?
As Elite Daily points out, Harry Potter also teaches very clear lessons about hate speech. When characters refer to half-wizards as “Mudbloods,” it is treated as a very big deal and a very bad thing that hurts people. The protagonists don’t do it, and the books and protagonists treat characters that do use the word “Mudblood” with disdain. Nobody is brushed off for being too sensitive or told that they’re just words, because words have power, and hate speech is wrong.
While being a magical, delightful fantasy romp, the Harry Potter series also teaches very clear lessons against bigotry and discrimination, and those are the kinds of lessons most of us want to impart to our children.
Sometimes people will dismiss criticism of a book, film, TV show, or other media property. “It’s just a joke!” they’ll say, or “It’s just a movie! Don’t you have anything important to worry about?” But the culture we consume shapes who we are and who our children grow up to be, and that’s very important.
It’s never too early for Harry Potter.