Harry Potter Age-by-Age Guide

There's a Harry Potter for everyone. Find the right books, movies, and games to introduce as kids grow up.
Common Sense Media Editors Categories: Healthy Media Habits, Screen Time

Discovering the joys of Harry Potter is a rite of passage for kids today. Since J.K. Rowling released the first book more than 15 years ago, kids have been devouring the books, watching the movies, and -- at least for super fans -- playing games and apps and visiting websites devoted to the young wizard. One of the delights of discovering Harry Potter is that you see him grow up. But along with that, the subject matter of the books and movies gets scarier, the villains get viler, and beloved characters die.

If your family is just getting into this magical world, here's a quick age guide for enjoying Harry Potter with your kids. Keep in mind that all kids are different, so assess your child's ability to handle frights and peril before you see the movies or read the books.

6-7: A great age to begin.
Read aloud: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
Watch: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

7-8: Kids can start to read alone and enjoy the early movies and video games.
Read alone: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Watch: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Play: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Harry Potter: Quidditch World Cup, LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4

8-9: The books get more intense. The movies get scarier.
Read: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Watch: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Play: Harry Potter: Quidditch World Cup

9-10: For the first time, the movies become really dark.
Read: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Watch: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Play: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

10-11: Beloved characters die, and the movies get even scarier (you might wait until 12+).
Read: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Play: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

11-12: Your kids can probably handle everything J.K. Rowling sends their way. (But you might want to accompany them to the more mature movies.)
Read: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Watch: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Play: Harry Potter: Spells

And for a complete list of every single piece of media related to Harry Potter, check out our list.

About Common Sense Media Editors

Read more
At what age did your kid become a Harry Potter fan?

Add comment

Sign in or sign up to share your thoughts

Comments (45)

Parent written by Eskarina

Many of the comments seem so bizarre to me! No HP until teen years? Good grief. Let's not forget that we're raising future adults, who will need to be self sufficient and confident. Besides which, they'll be tackling Lord of the Flies in high school. When did this culture of coddling children begin? For centuries, there wasn't even such a thing as children's literature. They read the same things everyone else did, and were fine. While I'm rather fond of children's literature, I find it strange that even classic children's books are being treated as if they're inappropriate. Let's not forget: death is natural, and so is fear. Peter rabbit's father was eaten in a pie, the Velveteen rabbit's boy almost died, and Alice nearly loses her head. Snow white's stepmother tried to eat her heart, Cinderella is abused, and Rapunzel was abducted. While children should have guidance on the books, I don't believe they should be banned. My 4 year old son has seen the first two and we've read the first book. I read them at a similar age. He had some good questions, which I answered. He was satisfied and not even slightly traumatized. Children emulate what they see. If you act like the bogeyman is in the closet, and evil strangers lurk around every corner, you will have fearful children who become fearful adults. It is far better, in my opinion, to show them they needn't be afraid, and teach them the skills they need to face problems. Harry Potter is a wonderful example of this.
Educator and Parent written by RyanB 2

One book I have read that my daughter actually loved is called Libellus de Numeros which is part of the Magicae Mathematica series by author Jim West. Great middle age fiction book about Alex, a young precocious girl, who mysteriously gets transported to a strange world where Latin and Math combine in formulas and equations with magical effects. http://www.magicaemathematica.com
Adult written by rebma97

I've always felt that Harry Potter was best for the double digits, or the middle school set. Of course, once you get to Order of The Phoenix, you have to be more mature to handle all the violence.
Teen, 16 years old written by dcasey98

My library issues the following classifications for the Harry Potter series: Philosopher's Stone: U-MG (Upper-Middle Grade) for moderate violence and menace and mild thematic material-all involving children Chamber of Secrets: U-MG for moderate violence and menace and moderate thematic material-all involving children Prisoner of Azkaban: N-YA (New-Young Adult) for moderate violence and menace, moderate thematic material, and some mild language-all involving teens Goblet of Fire: YA (Young Adult) for rough action violence including strong, bloody imagery, some mild language, questionable behavior, alcohol abuse, crude humor, and strong thematic material-all involving teens Order of the Phoenix: YA for rough action featuring strong, bloody violence and some gory imagery, consumption of alcohol, questionable behavior, crude humor, teen partying, and strong thematic content Half-Blood Prince: YA for strong, bloody violence, mild language, alcohol abuse and parallels to substance abuse, questionable behavior, some language, some sensual scenes, and some sexual thematic material, teen partying, and strong thematic content Deathly Hallows: E-YA (Edgy-Young Adult) for strong, bloody, and gory violence, disturbing imagery, some moderate sensuality and sexual thematic material, some moderate language, questionable behavior, alcohol abuse, and heavy, disturbing thematic material The movies are rated as follows (if the film in question struggled to maintain a certain rating in the face of the MPAA or other worldwide film classification bodies, the rating will include both, Ex. rated PG/PG-13) Philosopher's stone: Rated PG, recommended age 9+ Chamber of Secrets: Rated PG, recommended age 9+ Prisoner of Azkaban: Rated PG/PG-13 recommended age 10+ Goblet of Fire: Rated PG-13 recommended age 12+ Order of the Phoenix: Rated PG-13 recommended age 11+ Half-Blood Prince: Rated PG-13 recommended age 12+ Deathly Hallows Part 1: Rated PG-13/R recommended age 14+ Deathly Hallows Part 2: Rated PG-13 recommended age 13+ Overall Series classification: YA (Young Adult) for 7 counts of violence (moderate or above)-100% of the series 2 counts of sexuality-28% 4 counts of profanity-57% 4 counts of substance abuse-57% 6 counts of thematic material-85% Harry Potter therefore has an appropriateness score of 34/50, representing the equivalent of an R rated classification, but it's acceptable scores range anywhere from 14/50 to 36/50, representing a book rating range of anywhere from Upper-Middle Grade to New-Adult, and therefore, the equivalent possible film ratings of PG, PG-13, and R. This is used to gauge potential unsuitably. So Harry Potter could, at it's youngest extreme, be considered appropriate for more of a PG-rated crowd, while at its highest extreme could also, to a reasonable extent, be considered appropriate only for an R-rated, more adult crowd. Though it is, on average, a YA series and equates to more of a PG-13 rating. Just for a benchmark comparison, here's The Hunger Games series: The Hunger Games: YA for strong, bloody violence, alcohol abuse, and strong thematic material-all involving teens Catching Fire: YA for strong, bloody violence, alcohol and mentions of substance abuse, and strong thematic material Mockingjay: E-YA for strong, bloody, and gory violence, some disturbing imagery, a moment of sexual thematic material, some alcohol abuse and mentions of substance abuse, and extremely heavy, disturbing thematic material The films: The Hunger Games: Rated PG-13/R recommended age 13+ Catching Fire: Rated PG-13 recommended age 11+ Mockingjay Part 1: Rated PG-13 recommended age 12+ Overall rating: YA for 3 counts of violence-100% 0 counts of sexuality-0% 0 counts of language-0% 2 counts of substance abuse-66% 3 counts of thematic material-100% Overall/potential inappropriateness rating: 26/50 This series has a potential unsuitability rating of anywhere from 24/50 to 26/50, meaning suitable ratings of either YA or E-YA, and a suitable equivalent film rating of PG-13 What you realize when comparing these two YA series, is that Harry Potter has the same amount of violence as The Hunger Games, more sexual material than The Hunger Games, and more profane material than The Hunger Games, but slightly less questionable material pertaining to substance abuse and thematic content compared to The Hunger Games. It's Harry Potter's wide range of potential ratings, from a more U-MG, PG category, suitable for older children and Tweens, to a restrictive New-Adult, R-rated category, a category meant solely for older teens and adults, that confuses people as to its suitably. It can reasonably be considered fairly suitable material for kids as young as 9, but it could also, to a reasonable extent, due to its large amount of aggregated questionable content and thematic material, be considered appropriate or understandable only for older teens and adults. It's average, again, however, lies firmly in YA, PG-13 territory. I think it's a story for Tweens and teens. A mature child as young as 9 should be able to start the series, but beyond that, it really is meant for kids 12+. Plus, kids below a certain age tend to not grasp plotting and characters too well. They focus on the more insignificant, imaginitive details, and Harry Potter is much more than that.
Teen, 17 years old written by PotterPokemon

When I was in fifth grade I read the whole series. I don't think it's too inappropriate for young children. I think you might want to wait until a child can understand it. Kids develop at there own pace. If a eight year old can fully understand and accept the books they should be able to read them. I watched all the movies at age eleven and was not traumatized at all. I have reread all the books several times and each time I understood them a little more. So I disagree with this guide because it is very unreasonable. I think as long as a child is mature enough to read or watch the series they can.
Teen, 15 years old written by Tolkien2600

I picked up the first book, a copy belonging to a family member, at age six. I finished the series at eight. When people post comments arguing that children will be traumatized by reading the later books, I get slightly annoyed, because there is a very good reason that they won't be: they don't understand why the material should scare them. To a young elementary schooler, these adventure books are just that: a seven-year-long adventure. There aren't hidden meanings, themes that will keep them thinking for long after they've finished; the books are simply a narrative to tell a story. And so yes, I think that it is appropriate to allow young children to read them, because it will provide a basis for them to return to when they inevitably decide to reread them, whether constantly or after many years without picking them up. The rereading at an older age is, in my opinion, the more important experience. Rowling is really a master of hidden meanings and humor that slips right over the head of the younger section of her audience. However, it's not all humor that children will miss. In the Deathly Hallows, for example, is quite a blatant Holocaust allegory: the discrimination and methodical elimination of one group, the mindless hate, the hypocritical leader of the evil side. I remember being shocked when I picked up the book again at around twelve after a year-long hiatus and realizing this. The ministry of magic could be a thinly-veiled attack at the corruption in modern government; the list of this sort of thing goes in and on. Another large point of Rowling's work that will not be picked up by younger readers is the depth of knowledge of the classical world, such as Greek and Roman legends and historical figures, that she incorporated into her books. For example, Regulus Black: considered a traitor by his brother, yet willingly gave his life for the Light side after taking the Dark Mark. If you research Roman history, one Regulus lives a very similar tale. It is not just names that Rowling researched: connotations that only someone who has studied mythology would know are woven into many parts of the series. For example, when Umbridge is carried off by the centaurs in the Forbidden Forest, she is living out a fate the same as those women taken by centaurs in Greek mythology. Her behaviour afterwards certainly fits the circumstances. It is parts of the stories like these that will entertain children but make older readers think. I suppose what I am trying to day is that any age could read the books, but each person will get something different out of it. I certainly am seeing them differently even than I did two years ago. As for the movies, yes, they are all rather frightening. I was about eleven when the last ones came out, and I saw them in theaters. Yes, the torture scenes and battle scared me. However, they are only adaptations: good for entertainment, not much in them to interpret and think about. My only advice would be to let children read all of the books, discuss them, and understand the themes: this is more important than shielding them. These books and their movies-- all of them-- can, in my opinion, be handled by a mature ten-year-old.
Parent written by dongrenwah

My son is 7 and half, in second grade. He picked up the first book of Harry Potter from his older brother's room last week( around new year of 2015) and read aloud to me. He instantly loved reading it. He finished reading the first book within 5 days.(He read aloud to me.) It is quite easy for him to read it. I love his enthusiasm about reading it. But he gets scared when he goes to bed. He says he is scared by the things he reads in the book. He had nightmares twice now. But he still wants to keep reading the second book of the series. I am kind of concerned about so many dark scenes for him at this age, may hold off until later.
written by Buddy923

I began reading Harry Potter when I was in third grade like 7 or 8. I remember reading the Order of the Phoenix in 5th grade. It wasn't too scary for me. Now I'm 17 and Harry Potter is still my favorite series. I reread them all the time. I think it all depends on the kid. Some can handle it earlier, others later.
Teen, 14 years old written by Beth99

I was 5 when I discovered the Harry Potter series by this time the first three has been released and my Dad (who had watched the films of the first two before reading the books) decided that he wanted to read them to so from that age me and my dad had a nightly schedule we would read together the book for a hour before I when to bed and this time became later as I got older and when the last book came out he agreed to take me to the launch party where J.K Rowling read an extract of the book. But we also developed a ritual to go to every opening night of the last four movies. I found that Harry Potter brought me closer to my dad so I don't agree with your list it's up to you as a parent of when you let your child read them or you read them to them
Kid, 9 years old

Well I started reading harry potter when I was 8, so a year ago. It had most violence in the 4+ books. When I read the last one, I stopped for I while because it was super scary. I only stopped for a day, but I read the last. It was an ok series for kids, but I'd start when your 8 and older.
Parent written by duncan311

I DO NOT agree about starting HP a 6-7. 1- It was a good idea to start young when they were released because you had to wait 1 - 3 years for the next book. by the time they start to get darker, your kid is already old enough to handle it. I know each kid is different, but there is nothing my parents could have done to stop me reading them all within a month. I consider myself lucky that i had to wait for them to be released. I started at 10yr old and finished at 16. The book is written from a teenager's point of view, not a kid's pov. I'm convinced that if you start too young (e.i. before 11), you would miss out on a big part of what makes HP a great book.
Teen, 14 years old written by AngelsFlight

I started reading Harry Potter when I was six or seven (in the second grade), got scared halfway through Chamber of Secrets, and stopped for a while. Then, after attending the seventh book release party that summer, I decided that I would read the entire series. And I did. I was still seven at the time, but I could handle everything the books threw my way, whether it be vocabulary or violence. Sure, I was a little scared at times, but it wasn't that bad. I mostly skipped through the discussions about "snogging" and the like; when I reread the sixth book (which I generally don't reread because of Dumbledore's death and it's just my least favorite book) a year or two later, I realized I had skipped it. That was the start of my Harry Potter life, and it set the scene for my love of reading and writing and hatred of discrimination in the future. Personally, I believe it depends on the emotional maturity of the child. If they can handle the vocabulary (I started reading early, so that may have also been a factor) and they won't get too scared, I'd have them read the series. It will develop a lifelong love for reading.
Kid, 11 years old

I started and finished the Harry Potter series when I was 10. I don't think it's anymore violent or sad than Percy Jackson. The movies are scarier than the books. I think you can read the books whenever but, the movies might be later. The books also get very long so, that was kind of boring. I love the series and I recommend kids read it from 8+. I personally watched the movies when i was 7 or 8 and I did get very scared. So, the movies might be from 10+
Teen, 16 years old written by dcasey98

Harry Potter in fact is much more violent and unsuitable for a young age than the Percy Jackson series is. The Harry Potter series thematic material and content is much stronger. The Harry Potter series is a YA series, the Percy Jackson series is a Middle Grade/Children's series
Kid, 9 years old

I started reading them when i was 8, and i am halfway finished with the 6th book. I stopped cause i needed my rest at night! I useally read for a LONG time at night so :/.
Kid, 9 years old

I started reading them when i was 8, and i am halfway finished with the 6th book. I stopped cause i needed my rest at night! I useally read for a LONG time at night so :/.
Kid, 10 years old

I think that it doesn't matter your age, it matters how emotionally mature you are. You may think I was living under a rock, but I didn't hear about Harry Potter until I was eight or nine. I read all the books in third grade, with no parental help. My grandpa was the one who convinced me to by the first book in December. I did watch all the movies with my dad, though. Quite frankly, however, I believe that these reviews and blog posts should be thought of as guidelines. You, and only you, know if YOUR child can handle it.
Kid, 12 years old

I agree with you on that. I think that applies to all books. It's not the age that matters, but the maturity level.
Parent of a 5 and 9 year old written by pvavarou

It really depends on the child. If your child is mature and does not frighten easily, reading the first few books in the series should be fine. My son is 9 and extremely sensitive and imaginative. We strictly monitor what he reads and watches because frightening books/movies affect him terribly. He begged me to start reading Harry Potter early last year but I would not let him. He received the series for Christmas and has already read books 1-4. I will not let him read further though because he has been waking up several times a night with horrible nightmares. I highly doubt this is a coincidence as they started when he began reading the books. I can tell he is enthralled by the books and he says he is not scared by them but his sleep patterns speak for themselves. I know he is saying that primarily because he wants to keep on reading the rest of the books. Though I know he can read them and understand them, he is not ready for them emotionally. So we are waiting to read the rest at least another year. In regards to the movies, we watched the first 3 and will not watch any of the others until he is older as they get quite a bit scarier after the third one.
Kid, 9 years old

I read the first Harry potter when I was 5 the first hunger games at seven and city of bones at eight I saw all the Harry potter movies when they came put (except the first three which weren't out)
Parent of a 6, 6, 9, 13, 14, and 15 year old written by craftygirl202

This "advice" make teens look like scaredy-cat wimps who can't handle just a bit of gore. I watched The Hunger Games when I was 9. I was Arachnophobia when I was 4 and Jurassic Park when I was 5. I first started reading the first and second Harry Potter (by myself) when I was 6. I read the third-sixth ones when I was 7, and the last book when I was 8. I wasn't scared a bit and could handle the vocabulary in these books. Now 11, I am currently rereading all the books. I have watched all the movies, and the sixth-eighth movies in a movie theatre. I watched the first movie when I was 5. No problems. Please stop underestimating us!!! We are not two year olds.
Parent written by kmgs

I would like to say I am 19 and I may not have my own kids but I do have a brother that is six and many younger cousins and I have been a nanny for a while. I started reading Harry Potter when I was about six and my cousin did as well (he's only a few years younger than me). I read them all through (giving appropriate space for them to come out of course). I read the previous post about how having younger children read will make teens feel that they can't read it. I don't believe that is true because most teens grew up with it and any teens that want/wanted to read it have and those who didn't haven't and they won't. So it's best to have them grow up with it. Now,I understand the developmental arguments and how children pick up on the mean spiritedness of the books and start to pick on children. I don't want to tell people how to raise their kids but it's sort of the parent's fault for not sitting down with their children and explaining what is happening in the story and how they need to act. I'm sorry to say but instead of trying to eliminate an outside reason for your children being mean perhaps you as a parent should teach them that it's wrong. Also, not all children develop the same. For example the first book mentions death, some children don't really understand this concept until they are much older but some do. It's all on life experiences. My brother understands death in a way that most children his age don't. People in our family have died and my parents have sat him down and explained exactly what that means. Also, with him have three significantly older siblings (I'm closest in age to him with two older brothers in their mid to late 20s) he understands things that are teenage and up. He started reading on his own when he was about 2 and at six and in first grade he is reading at a fourth grade reading level but my parents always sit down with him and talk about what he's reading. It's not about age and restricting children due to their age is doing more harm then good. My parent's don't push my brother to read anything. They don't even really suggest, they take him to the bookstore and the library and he chooses what he wants (within reason if he were to pick out a sex book or something then I'm sure that wouldn't be purchased). I agree that its up to the parents to help explain but any good parent would take the time to actually give attention to their child to help them understand things. Overall, I believe that it's dependent on the child, not necessarily on their ability to read it but to understand it and whether they have the parents or older siblings to help them understand or the life experiences to understand.
Adult written by mandeebobandee

I am in my mid-twenties now, so I had no choice but to space out the reading when it came to the later books. =P However, I read the first and second books when I was 10 years old, and I felt that it was a very good age to start. It was easy to relate to a hero that was close to my own age, and at age 10, you could fantasize about your own Hogwarts letter coming when you turned 11 (though it never happened, much to our disappointment). I think the proper age to read each book depends largely on the child, as well as how involved a parent is. I will agree, regardless, that the later books shouldn't just be given to younger children with the expectation that they can read them alone. Books four through seven really start to explore deeper and darker themes, and the further you go in the series, the more adult-oriented the themes get. This makes sense when you think about it - We are journeying with Harry Potter through his adolescence. By the time we reached the seventh book, Harry is just on the cusp of adulthood, and it shows in the subject matter.
written by Anonymous

I had watched the first 3 films by the time I was 4 and my mum said because the rest were '12's' not PG's I had to read the books so between the age's of 5-10 I read all the books and then got to watch all the films whilst they were coming out in the cinema. I have no problem with letting kids watch and read these stories. but some kids are more easily scared than other so watch out.
Educator and Parent written by RhetCultureMom

This article is very wrong about the age recommendations for Harry Potter books and movies. Appropriate age for Harry Potter series: Start Book 1 (Sorcerer's Stone) sometime around 11-13 years old, as a read-aloud book. Do not just hand it to your kid. These books should be enjoyed together and discussed. After you finish the first one, pace out the others over the next 2-3 years, reading other (ideally, classic) books in between (David Copperfield? Swallows and Amazons?). Then watch the movies together! Scariness is hardly the only reason to reserve a book (or series, or movie, or series of movies) for an older kid. Alex, thanks for your story and your comments. I'm betting that if the kids in your school were exposed to Harry Potter, then they were also introduced to other media that were not age-appropriate, probably by well-meaning, over-eager parents and teachers. This helps to explain why they were so insensitive to another kid's pain. They didn't see him as Harry because although they read the book, and they liked it... they didn't really get it. The fact is, age-appropriateness is not about how sensitive your kid is, or how good a reader your kid is. It's not even about the immediate reaction your kid displays. (In fact that kind of "depends-on-your-kid" thinking leads both kids and adults to believe that it's somehow more mature and better for kids to be able to "deal with" or "handle" troubling images, language, and concepts without registering anything emotionally. But in fact more mature is not better. Colder or more suppressed emotional response is not better. Feeling fine when you've just seen something awful is not a good thing.) What matters is that the media we take in will powerfully influence who we are, and the younger we are, the more quickly and powerfully we are shaped by what we see. Children always learn from what they witness, even if they seem untouched. They learn without trying, without even meaning to, and in fact without being able to help it. I have a teaching certificate in Montessori (early childhood) education, an MA in Liberal Arts, and an MA in Literary Studies. For over ten years, I have been teaching college courses on interpreting and creating ethical messages in various media. I've taught gifted and talented high school freshmen and sophomores, and I currently lead a writing group for kids grades 1-8, as well as a Shakespeare reading group. I'm also a mom with 4 awesome kids, ages infant to 13. Because of all this, I love the Common Sense Media site! Here's what I think: Parents and teachers both tend to overestimate children's ability to cope with mean-spiritedness in books and movies. Mean-spiritedness is probably the MOST IMPORTANT feature to watch out for in children's media. Avoid meanness and crassness in movies and books, and you will have a sweeter, more fun, and more confident child than most. This is harder to do than you might think, since most children's media is full of it. But Harry Potter is complex; the characters are not purely mean-spirited, though they are all a little damaged, just like the people around us. It's great to start the series at about age 12-13 (or perhaps age 11, Harry's age when the series begins?) and progress slowly through it. Although parents giving it to their little kids may be pleased to see how interested their children are in reading, or how enthusiastic their children are about the very important (and ultimately positive) social and spiritual messages in the HP series, their kids are not in a great position. There are other great books for young kids, and other ways to share important messages. There are many, many wonderful books out there for elementary-aged kids, books that will deepen and intensify kids' understanding of themselves and others around them, and also provide magic and freedom and surprise and adventure and delight...without the teenage themes of HP. The problems encountered by Harry and his friends are really adolescent issues, and by that I mean, issues that it's beneficial for adolescents to explore and reflect on. So, along with making young kids immerse themselves in a teenage world (sad) the other side of this problem of HP being pushed on young readers and viewers is that teenagers--now being taught to think of HP as a story for little kids--are pushed *out* of the experience that Rowling created specifically with them (i.e, her own kids!) in mind. What a gift J.K. Rowling has given her readers, in narrativizing the longing for a personal calling, for unconditional love, for the opportunity to sacrifice oneself for one's friends! (To say nothing of the longing for an intact family, for freedom from materialism and mass-media-saturated culture, for serious engagement with school and learning--learning how to do something real and powerful...at school!, for friendships based on shared ethical goals and mutual trust, for self-respect and caring self-control in erotic relationships, for an answer to the problem of evil...) Teenagers need stories like this to immerse themselves in, and I think that adults benefit from reading them, too, especially if they help us to understand teenagers better. For one thing, the stories ennoble adolescents and their tendencies to act a little crazy. We should all remember that what most adolescents want are true heroes, values to live by, a worthy challenge, a chance to give their all to something truly great, and ultimately a legitimately earned place in a world of adults they can respect. They are ready to laugh at themselves (and everybody else), but they need something pure, and they deserve it. They have tremendous power and intrinsic individual worth, and yet they are still to a great extent reflections of their parents and the other adults who have influenced them. (Just like the kids in the Harry Potter books.) These books are a wonderful way to reflect on school culture as well as much, much bigger issues with our teenagers...but this is going to work much better if we don't push the books on our kids when they are still too young to fully appreciate them. At elementary age, kids are still open enough to enjoy and benefit from more idealistic, less provocative (and yes, less scary) stories. Lord of the Rings is an example of a book that is just as magical and awe-inspiring, but far less emotionally complex. Scariness...sure. But who cares? In deciding age-appropriateness, the important thing is that the characters are emotionally simple, the world in it is manageable, not close to our big, confusing lifeworld. In Tolkein, unlike Rowling, relationships are no more complicated than a child's vision of families and society. HP is worth saving for adolescents (or middle schoolers, seeing adolescence on the horizon and needing a friend in HP, to accompany them into it). Meanwhile, little kids' innocence is worth protecting.
Parent of a 10 and 12 year old written by TubinReuben

Excellent post. Thanks RhetCultureMom for bringing some good thought to this discussion. I agree with your comment that "Scariness is hardly the only reason to reserve a book".
Parent written by Inquiring Mom

Hallelujah! I totally agree with you! My daughter (9) has read the first four Harry Potter books and that is as far as I will let her go. I honestly wouldn't have started them at all, however, they were available at school and encouraged by the teacher. So, after reading as much as I could on the web about the age appropriateness of the books, I reluctantly let her read the first three. Of course she was totally hooked and wanted to continue. Again, I read more about it and decided 4 was probably "okay," but I would definitely make her wait for the rest. I also discussed this with her teacher (i.e. NO book five and up). Well, yesterday, she came home with book five from the classroom, begging to read it (citing who else was reading it). I have repeatedly told her "No," however, I came here again to have more to say to her as to "Why not?" I completely agree with what you have said! I find that I am one of few moms who feel this way about movies and books that my kids are exposed to. Even I feel the pressure from other parents. There are many animated movies that we won't take our kids to see because of irreverent/rude language and attitudes, not to mention violence of some kind. I feel as though they make those movies to appeal to the parents so that they will actually take their kids to the movie. Even Winnie the Pooh had scary parts for very young children. My son, who was 3 or 4 at the time, had to hide his eyes! Winnie the Pooh! Actually, even his older sister cowered a little in her seat. Can't they just have a nice "little kid" movie where simple obstacles are overcome or lessons learned, or that's just plain fun? WHY is everyone interested in having kids accelerate through childhood? It's so brief!(New Paragraph) How do you feel about a third grader reading The Giver? It is a very good, thought-provoking book, however, I DO NOT feel it should be available in an elementary school library. This was another book my daughter had in her backpack that I sent back. I just finished it myself to see if what I'd read about it's age appropriateness was on target. I think junior high is as young as I would go! So, as someone else asked, do you have any appropriate recommendations (in addition to Tolkien or C.S. Lewis) for the 7-10 year-old range? My daughter's reading level is high and the school wants her to read books at or above her level, so, finding appropriate books is a real challenge (okay, nightmare). Thanks for taking the time to write your opinion!
Parent written by mama mooki

I am grateful for your post and agree with your ideas. My children attend a school in which reading flashcards are fed at age 1, standardized testing is applauded and Harry Potter is pushed before first grade (because it proves that kids are smart). I completely disagree with all of this. I would love to see YOUR list of good books for 7-10-year-olds! I count on Common Sense Media for a first look at the appropriateness of books and films, but find that I disagree with some of the conclusions. I teach media studies at a college and have my own ideas about the influence of media messages - most similar to yours. Thank you for any good list. We just finished reading Sharon Draper's Out of My Mind, which we enjoyed together. The characters were not very complex, but we had some nice conversations about many themes in the book.
Parent written by Alex Umay

I am a teacher of elementary aged children with a MFA focus on media literacy. I believe that Harry Potter should not be read by children under 12-13. A friend who teaches at an elementary school for gifted children agrees. Most of the series was written for adults. Just because your young child can read the words doesn't mean their brains are able to conceptually understand the meanings being expressed. This is a cognitive fact. Maybe the first two books can go younger but only if you as a parent are willing to do the teaching work required, reading and breaking down the meaning for your child. In my sons 1st grade class (ages 6-7) a group of boys were reading Harry Potter and immediately started a HP club. Of course they continued past the first two books. By the end of the school year one of the boys was singled out and bullied by the others. He was so traumatized that he was crying and throwing up in the mornings not wanting to go to school. Ursula Kroeber Le Guin, an American author of novels, children's books, and short stories, mainly in the genres of fantasy and science fiction stated that the HP series was, "ethically rather mean-spirited." Clearly the boys picked up on that! The unfortunate thing is that parents' egos sometimes override the reality of what their young children's brains can conceptually handle. As for the movies, please use the ratings the film industry provides. Films are a different beast. Just because your child read the book doesn't mean watching the movie is appropriate. There is no reason to traumatize your children.
Kid, 10 years old

I heart all of the books! I've read the whole series, (and yes, in books 5-7 it is really dark and creepy) but they are still age-appropriate for tweens-teens.
Teen, 16 years old written by saibhandari

I don't this is true for all kids. I started reading the first book aged 4 or 5? and then I read all the books that were out at the time, before watching the films. as I grew up more books were released and I read them accordingly. The same with the video-games. This article doesn't give kids enough credit!
Kid, 12 years old

My mom says I can read them when I'm thirteen. Waiting... waiting... waiting...
Teen, 14 years old written by JTDB

It all depends on what you think your kids can read. If you have a sensitive child who bursts into uncontrollable tears when they see a dead bird then it probably wouldnt be wise to let them read the last few books, but on the other hand if your child is mature and strong enough to deal with life and death etc etc then it should be no problem.
Kid, 11 years old

I read the whole Harry Potter series when I was 7-8. I finished Deathly Hallows right before I went into third grade. I thought it was a really good series, and I understood most of it, but I keep rereading and discovering new things. Sometimes I think I should have been a little older when I read it... But hey, I read the whole Hunger Games series at 10.
Teen, 13 years old written by Tildathetimelord

I read Harry Potter at 7 and i saw each movie as they came out. There was nothing that I found particuarly disturbing and if I didn't understand it, i definitely did by the 10th time 'round.
Kid, 11 years old

I am going to be 11 in a few days and I have watched and loved all of the HP movies. At our school we have had Harry Potter and the Sorcerers' Stone read to us, and the 7 year olds love it. Nevertheless, don't watch the movies until you're 12 at least if you don't like passionate kissing and death of beloved characters.
Adult written by koujokakyuu

I would say no to the movies and their questionable edits. Consider enjoying Jim Dale's audiobooks as a family: a great way to keep the magic alive.
Teen, 13 years old written by MadeW98

I totally agree with this! that is how i split my reading up (my parents arent big bookies so i started reading by myself)
Kid, 11 years old

Oh my gosh. If you think your kid is going to react that way if they read a HP book, don't give it to them! Harry Potter is amazing.