The Harry Potter stories are a great adventure and a really fun, imaginative experience for kids to enjoy. There’s no doubting the magic of the story and the power it possesses to draw a child into the world.
But no great kids’ story is ever just a story. The true mark of excellence in writing is how effectively it explores meaningful themes and taps into the human condition in a way that helps us explore our own feelings.
Outside of just the stuff that’s geared towards kids, every great story ever written has a deeper meaning, but it’s a little bit tougher to thread that meaning into a kids’ story. And the reason for that is because our children don’t want to feel like they’re being educated when they’re doing something that’s supposed to be fun.
And so the lesson of the story needs to be included in such a way that doesn’t overshadow the entertainment value. If done well, a great story will teach you something without you even realizing you’ve been taught.
Even though children might not realize this, it is often the themes of a story that draw them in and keep them engaged. And that is most definitely the case with Harry Potter. Not only is it whimsical, thrilling and mysterious, but your children can learn a lot about themselves from it.
Here’s a few things your kids can learn from Harry Potter:
You Don’t Have to be Defined by Your Blood
One recurring theme in Harry Potter is the purity of magic from the perspective of families and bloodlines. The way it’s portrayed in the wizarding world of the stories is very similar to a lot of what happens in the real world between races and nationalities.
The stories feature pure blooded wizards, which are those who have fully magic bloodlines on both sides, half bloods who only have it from one bloodline, and then you have muggle-borns who are witches or wizards born to non-magical parents.
These are referred to by some prejudiced purebloods by the derogatory term of ‘mudblood’. Now aside from the slight discrepancy here in the fact that non-magical people are referred to by a similarly offensive-sounding term even by the heroes, it is made clear that discrimination towards muggle-borns is unwarrented and unfair.
And we can see throughout the story how the belief that being pureblood is superior is very detrimental to the wizarding society, and has led to major wars and conflicts. We also see how little it truly matters in terms of ability.
Hermione Granger is an extremely capable magic user, while being muggle-born, while Draco Malfoy who comes from one of the most respected pureblood families, is a coward. In the world of Harry Potter, it’s ones decisions that define them and not their blood.
We see Sirius Black who comes from a similarly prestigious family, rejecting the notion of superiority and being alienated from his family for it. In spite of this, he is still one of the most heroic and good-natured characters in the books.
And even Malfoy himself, when we meet him years after the events of the story, is raising his own child to believe that being pureblood doesn’t make you better than anyone.
This is the theme which drives the central conflict of the story and it’s a very valuable one for children who might feel out of place due to their race or nationality, and also for children who might have peers that are different, but shouldn’t be treated as such.
You Can Waste Your Life Dreaming
A theme which we first see in the very early stages of the story and which is actively spelled out for us, but which remains important all the way through. This idea is brought to our attention by the Mirror of Erised, which is a magical object that shows you your deepest desires.
When Harry looks into it in the first film, he sees himself reunited with his parents. Unfortunately, this is an impossibility for Harry. His parents are dead and even in the Wizarding World, death is something most of us can’t return from.
And so Harry spends many a night sitting before the mirror, for it is the only way that he can ever feel like he has his parents back, and this desperate longing can be satisfied. It is from Albus Dumbledore then that we hear these all-important words of wisdom.
“It does not do well to dwell on dreams, and forget to live.”
Life for wizards can last for almost 200 years, but it’s still short and moves by quickly. If we spend our lives wishing for things we can’t have, we can miss out on the joy of what we can have.
We see many characters going through this struggle and ultimately realizing that they should make the most of their situation, which it’s important that kids learn to do too.
Anyone Can be Brave or Smart
When children arrive in Hogwarts, the very first thing that happens to them is they are sorted into their houses. There’s four houses in the school, and kids are sorted into them based on certain characteristics that they have.
Gryffindor is synonymous with bravery, Slytherin with ambition, Hufflepuff with kindness and Ravenclaw with intelligence. While this is one of the more fun aspects of the story because every kid who reads or watches can imagine which house they might be sorted into, or even take a quiz to figure it out, it does seem like a silly way to separate children.
But it’s interesting to see how it develops over the course of the story, and what becomes clear is the fact that these houses are more to do with encouraging kids to seek out virtues that they wish to strengthen within themselves.
We see the prime example being Neville Longbottom, the notoriously anxious and scared child who is sorted into Gryffindor. It seems like the wrong house, but by the end of the story, he has conquered many of his fears and earned his place among the brave.
Similarly, Luna Lovegood is sorted into Ravenclaw, despite being apparently slow-witted and spaced out. But we watch as she gathers knowledge and displays her own unique intelligence throughout the story.
It’s another important lesson for kids to understand that even if they feel lacking in ambition, bravery, kindness, intelligence or other virtues, they can be worked on with time and patience.
These are some of the most important lessons in the series, but they are by no means the only ones. Harry Potter is very rich in it’s thematic content and also teaches kids about love, friendship and respecting animals. It’s a series that even adults can learn a lot from.