A now former coworker introduced me to Harry Potter in 2002. Four books were published in the series at the time; I spent the next 5 years eagerly waiting for each new book to release. I was in my early 20s and never questioned if I was “too” old to enjoy the series. Friends ten years older and several years younger were hooked just like me. I immediately found myself mesmerized by the world JK Rowling shared with her readers. Part of the everlasting appeal of the series is that it is ageless and timeless. Visiting the world is also, in a sense, comforting. To paraphrase what my friend Jackie recently explained regarding why she rereads the Harry Potter series: it is because reading the books is like visiting familiar friends.
When I would finally get my hands on the newest Harry Potter release, I’d stay up all night, devouring every sentence and plot twist. While I have since had the opportunity to re-watch the movies many times, I still need to find time to reread all the books from start to finish. There is so much value in rereading a text because with each new read, there is new discovery. The more one reads a series or book, the better they grow to know the characters and worlds within the pages. The better they mature from a passive reader to one who is fully engaged and able to question the whys and whats of that particular fictional world.
The Harry Potter series remains highly popular; this was true even prior to the announcement of either Harry Potter and the Cursed Child or Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. If I didn’t work in a public library and receive requests for books in the Harry Potter series multiple times a week, I may not believe just how popular the series is among today’s youth. If anything the series isn’t fading in popularity, it’s increasing and continuously finding new audiences.
Parents of children between the ages of 7-9 sometimes ask me if Harry Potter is appropriate for their child. I’ve had other parents tell me that their 9-year-old has finished the series and needs something more challenging. I’ve had others ask me for recommendations other than Harry Potter because it’s the only series their son or daughter seems to want to read. These are far from simple answers because a child’s maturity isn’t always based on age. Rereading shouldn’t be stigmatized as a “bad” either. What I wish I could say is let your child grow up with Harry, Hermione, and Ron because that is part of the magic and overall experience.
Seeing how children as young as 7 are starting with the series did make me start to re-question whether or not I was too old for it myself. This self-questioning didn’t linger long. Harry Potter’s appeal seamlessly crosses the age divide. I saw this come to life when I visited the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Walking into Diagon Alley was like being transported into the books themselves. Children, teens, and adults walked around wearing Hogwarts robes, drinking butter beer and casting spells. Though I resisted the serious buying impulse to purchase my own robe, I did purchase one of the interactive wands. Around Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade are markers letting people know where they can “cast a spell” to make something happen. Each marker has directions for how to move the wand and what to say.
I was a bit nervous and self-conscious to try it at first. And again that voice returned, asking “am I too old for this?”. When I looked around though, I saw people of not only different ages, but also different cultures, genders, and races each trying their best to cast spells. So I gave it a go … and I tried again … and again … and nothing! Then from the corner of my eye I saw a young girl, maybe age 10, approach me. I thought she wanted to use her wand, so I started to step out of the way. However, instead she asked me if she could help me out. I of course, said yes! She first demonstrated how to move the wand and where to point. She then stood by my side, instructing me as I attempted to cast the spell again – this time with actual success! That moment, that was one of my favorites of my visit. It reminded me that no one else thought I was too old to be roleplaying; I was the only one having those thoughts. Being an adult does not have to mean losing the magic of fantasy.
I was even able to (somewhat) defeat my life-long fear of roller coasters thanks to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. As someone who has held a severe fear of roller coasters and moderate motion sickness her entire life, I was pretty unsure of my decision to finally ride one for the first time in over 20 years. However, though I’m far from ready to conquer the thrill rides at Six Flags Great Adventure, the Harry Potter 3D rides (Escape from Gringotts and the Forbidden Journey) are so entirely immersive, I was able (with the assistance of motion sickness meds) to forget my worries and just enjoy the experience.