Apr 6, 2017

Why Kids Love Harry Potter


Kids love Harry Potter.  I was recently reminded of this again while watching a documentary about J.K. Rowling.

The first Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, was released on June 26, 1997.  Sine then, the series has sold over 500 million books world-wide and has been made into blockbuster movies.  The franchise is now worth over 25 billion dollars. 

The series has had its share of criticism.  Some more conservative Christians say it promotes witchcraft.  This article is not about that debate.  Personally, I allowed my kids to read the books growing up.  Whatever you think about Harry Potter, one thing cannot be denied...as I said at the beginning...kids love Harry Potter.

When you find something that resonates with kids this well, it is important to stop and ask "why?"  What is it in the books and movies that is a magnet for kids?  Let's look at a few of the reasons.

Harry Potter is slanted toward boys.  The author's full name is Joanne Kathleen Rowling.  So why did she just use her initials on the book?  The reason...so the book would appeal to boys.  The publishers wanted to make sure boys weren't turned off by a female author's name.  Experts who study kids know at that age, girls are okay with stuff that is "boyish," but boys are turned off by anything that seems "girly."  When you write or produce something that you want to appeal to all kids, then target boys and you'll get both boys and girls.  But target girls and you'll only get girls.  While the series has strong female characters, the main character is obviously a boy. 

Harry Potter was written from a child's perspective.  J.K. Rowling has been recognized for her unique ability to see through the eyes of a child.  She is able to write with an 11-year-old in mind.  Kids can relate to Harry's everyday life.  Yes, he's hit with some over-the-top experiences, but he's also spending time with friends, doing homework, interfacing with teachers, attending sports practices, etc.  Things kids do each week.

Harry Potter contains humor.  Rowling weaves humor throughout her stories.  And kids love to laugh!   Here are a few examples.

Dudley: They stuff people's heads down the toilet the first day at Stonewall.  Want to come upstairs and practice?  Harry: No, thanks.  The poor toilet's never had anything as horrible as your head down it -- it might be sick.

Professor McGonagall: Well, thank you for that assessment, Mr Weasley.  Perhaps it would be more useful if I were to transfigure Mr Potter and yourself into a pocket watch.  That way, one of you might be on time.  

Dumbledore: I was unfortunate enough in my youth to come across a vomit-flavored one, and since then I have rather lost my liking for them.  But, I think I could be safe with a nice toffee. (eats it)  Dumbledore: ...Hmm, alas, earwax.

Harry Potter is about relationships.  Family.  Friends.  Foes.  Relationships run deep.  Kids long to have friends.  Kids want to know someone cares about them and will stick with them through good and bad times.

Harry Potter challenges kids to take risks.  Hogwarts represents a dangerous place.  Staircases that shift randomly, venomous vasilik that kills with a glance, scary looking security guards, a whomping willow outside that wants to smash students' heads, riding lessons on flying hippogriffts, dangerous villians and more.

In our efforts to protect kids, we've stripped away merry-go-rounds and jungle gyms from the playgrounds and carefully monitor every allergy known to mankind.  While all along, kids long for danger and thrills.  They find this in Harry Potter.

Harry Potter follows the journey of a developing hero.  The majority of kids don't think they have the potential to become a hero.  But in Harry and his friends, they find hope.  Harry is a skinny kid with glasses.  And his friends are the kids that get picked last for games.  They are the chess club kids.  The kids who stay in at lunchtime to help the teacher. 

But kids watch as their hidden potential is unlocked and the geeks become heroes.  So many kids see themselves in these characters and long to become a hero.

Harry Potter sparked shared family experiences.  Parents saw the books as an opportunity to experience the stories with their kids.  Countless parents read the books and talked about the books with their children.  Not to mention, the millions of parents who have watched the movies and went to the theme park attractions with their children.

Harry Potter is great storytelling.  The story of good vs. evil has been told in various forms since the beginning of time and Harry Potter narrates it with skill.  Harry is a kid who is fighting to triumph over evil.

Kids love Harry Potter.  And if we want them to love coming to church, then I believe we should think through these questions:

1. Are we targeting boys in our children's ministries?

2. Do we plan our lessons, theming, programming, etc. through a child's perspective?

3. Do we use humor to engage kids and make church a fun place where kids are free to laugh?

4. Are we providing kids the opportunity to develop relationships with other kids and volunteers?

5. Are we making following Jesus too safe?  Are we challenging kids to count the cost and "forsake it all for the sake of the cross?"

6. Are we helping kids see their potential in Christ and showing them how they can impact the world for God?

7. Are we providing parents and kids with shared experiences where they can grow, learn and laugh together?  Are we providing tools they can use to read and study God's Word together during the week?

8. We have the greatest stories ever told.  And they are true stories.  And the greatest stories deserve the best storytelling.  While we may not have the budget to tell the stories on a blockbuster movie level, are we doing our best to make the stories of the Bible come alive with creativity, out-of-the-box thinking and passion?

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