Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Benefits of Harry Potter

Note: Since posting "Where Is the Love... For Hermione Granger?" last week, there has been a lot of discussion raised about the books and different aspects of it. I knew, writing that piece, that I would only represent a very small faucett of this literary phenomenon, so I asked people on twitter and Goodreads if they wanted to write their own piece on it, and Tamara was so good to offer.

The Benefits of Harry Potter

by Tamara Felsinger

Haters to the left, fangurls to the right, and everyone meet in the middle.

I enjoyed the Harry Potter books, but I’m no stranger to their flaws. However, I’m not here to stand on a pedestal and tell you whether the books are the BEST BOOKS EVAARRR or whether they should be burned in a pile of flaming paper. I’m here to tell you the benefits of their existence.

The story arc

Chosen hero goes on a quest to battle the ultimate villain. Has it been done before? Duh. Who hasn’t read a million books or watched a million movies with that story arc?

But let me ask you something: Who hasn’t read a million books or watched a million movies with that story arc? Think about it.


And they need to learn somewhere.

Teachers are required to teach narratives. Part of their job is to explain the idea of the hero’s journey. What better way to do so than to introduce (or re-introduce) the story of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone to the students? I haven’t yet come across a book that children are so eager to read. It isn’t easy to have a child do required reading, but with the Harry Potter books, the task is less stressful. And, as an added bonus for both the children and the teacher, there’s a movie to watch at the end of the unit. It’s not only enjoyable, but it allows for a comparison of modes of texts as well as a study on intertexuality.


Harry Potter doesn’t just encourage students to read. In many cases, it encourages them to write.

To write.

Suddenly the kids who had done nothing but a few sentences during free writing time are telling stories of far off places and magic and trolls. Yes, the students are pretty much retelling the Harry Potter books. But this is how children learn – imitation and scaffolding. Plus, at the same time they’re developing their grammar, punctuation, and spelling.

The people who appreciate this blog are sure to appreciate literacy skills, so we all know how important it is to develop these skills as early as possible. What the students need is practice, and practice requires inspiration. The Harry Potter books are providing more than enough to get a lot of those kids picking up their pencils. Sighs of relief can still be heard by teachers all over the world.


Every girl under the age of twelve I’ve asked about a favourite character has said Hermione. It’s common for a young girl to attach herself to the main female character in a story with a male protagonist. But Hermione’s not a bad role model, wouldn’t you say?

Hermione is the kind of character that respects teachers, reads a lot, and sticks by what she believes, even if people ridicule her. Even if her friends ridicule her.

If a girl was ever given a choice to do what was right or what she thought her friends wanted her to do, she may ask herself which decision Hermione Granger, her favourite character, would go with. Which one do you think she’d choose?

And let’s not forget that Hermione is the brightest student in her year, not just from talent, but from extraordinarily hard work. Heck, even I’ve read a portion of Harry Potter with Hermione studying and had the urge to do some work of my own. Imagine how an impressionable mind would interpret Hermione’s studiousness.

The real world

With children as young as eight, possibly younger, reading the books, wouldn’t you agree this is an amazingly early age to be learning about the potential flaws in the media and political systems? Through the Harry Potter books, children (and some adults, mind you) are introduced to the idea that authorities aren’t always right. That they shouldn’t believe everything they read in both newspapers and in magazines. Sure, it’s doubtful students will go out writing letters to world leaders at this point in time, but the idea of questioning authority has now been planted in their heads, and that’s a start.

As well as all this, J.K. Rowling’s extraordinarily detailed world-building has been put up against almost vicious scrutiny. It’s certainly teaching writers a thing or two about how much thought they have to put into their own world-building. Want to write about the full moon in January? Check what year you’re setting your story in, and make sure the date coincides with the one in your plot, or you may find you get someone else pointing out the mistake.

Universal acknowledgement

When I was a teen in day care, I had the task of looking after most of the other kids. There was a girl who just wouldn’t talk to me, no matter how I approached her. On one of the last days of school break, a few boys were teasing her, and after shooing them away I happened to overhear the girl mutter, “Darn muggles.”

Well. I finally found my in. I asked her if she liked Harry Potter, which books she’d read, who her favourite character was (Hermione, of course), and suddenly she was keen to talk to me.

The great thing was, this could have happened anywhere – Europe, America, the UK, Asia. They all have the books. They all have the fans. They all have the discussions/arguments/debates – in fact, this post right here will surely spark comments from people in different parts of the world, because you as readers know who Harry Potter is.

What a connection, don’t you think?

Can you think of other benefits for the existence of the Harry Potter books? Do you disagree with any of the points I’ve raised?

Tamara Felsinger is a teacher and writer. You can follow her on twitter @tamarafelsinger or you can find her on her blog, Notebooks and Neverlands.Link

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