Last Christmas Santa brought one of my very favorite gifts: the illustrated version of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. I’ve been a huge Harry Potter fan since the very beginning and I’ve been DYING waiting for just the right time to share him with my girls.
But Oh the agony! How old is the right age for reading Harry Potter? Should kids read it by themselves or should it be a read aloud book as a family? Should they read it in hardcover or paperback? What happens if your kids are different ages and one is ready but one isn’t? What about the amazing audio versions narrated by Jim Dale, where do they fit in?
Is there any other book series in the history of the world where parents fret over these kinds of questions? I see them asked in my Facebook newsfeed all the time so I know I am not alone. It shows the intense love we feel towards Mr. Potter that we want that experience to be just right for our kids.
At age 6, I know that Little Pea is nowhere near ready. But. . . the Peanut at age 9 is a different story. Many of her school classmates have read the whole series (which actually still sort of shocks me for how intense the later books get.) She has seen the books on her school library shelves as well as my personal one here at home. Santa’s gift of the illustrated version really piqued her curiosity.
When I vowed to read the illustrated Harry Potter as part of my 40 Before 40 list this summer, it suddenly occurred to me that perhaps now was a good time to share it with her. Though she is particularly prone to nightmares and avoids overly scary movies or books, my thought was that we could read through it slowly together and talk about the pictures in the book. We could discuss anything even mildly upsetting as it came up before it had a chance to fester in her imagination.
The book offered countless places to pause and slow down to gaze at gorgeous illustrations. Every single page has subtle visual texture to it in the form of splatters, ages spots, and pretend rips. Then there are the breathtaking figure studies and double page spreads sprinkled throughout the remainder.
If you want a sneak peek at even more details of the illustrations, you can see many pages in the customer photos here but I purposely avoided sharing the best ones because I think it is better to be surprised during your read through of the book. The portrait of Harry himself is one of my very favorites and really captured just how sweet and young he is at the start of the series.
It took the Peanut and I about a month to finish our read aloud session together since we broke it down so slowly. We had to wait for pockets of time where Little Pea was preoccupied to avoid jealous and hurt feelings that she wasn’t allowed to share this special story time.
The Peanut did great and avoided all nightmares. She fell in love with Hogwarts just as I knew she would and has been begging me to read Chamber of Secrets with her. Thankfully, the illustrated version of that is published on October 4 and I’ve already preordered our copy of it.
But what surprised me most of all is that upon finishing the book, she begged to be able to read it again on her own. I’ve sat with that realization for a few weeks now and finally have my thoughts on how to read the Harry Potter series for the first time.
How to introduce the Harry Potter series to children:
Step 1: Read the Illustrated Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone together out loud, stopping to really absorb the illustrations and chat about the book as you go.
Step 2: Allow the opportunity for your child to re-read book 1 in a non-illustrated version on his or her own. The complex vocabulary will have better context, you’ve already discussed the plot and it’s implications. Now they can absorb it all over again on their own with better comprehension.
Step 3: Repeat with books 2 and possibly 3 which is already under production and set to be released next year.
Step 4: Let go and allow your child to finish the series on their own. The Peanut already knows that by book 4 terrible things start to happen. She’s not ready for that yet but perhaps she will be by the time she finishes book 3 in the next few months. Be prepared to step in and hit a virtual pause button at any point if you feel your child is getting to the intense books a little too quickly. We had to wait YEARS for the series to finally be published, a little anticipation won’t harm your child
Our Favorite Harry Potter editions:
- The Illustrated Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
- The Illustrated Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
- The complete series in hardcover and an amazing collectible trunk: because reading a book in hardcover immediately conveys that the book is *extra special*
- The entire series on audio book as narrated by Jim Dale: perfect for family road trips and are so completely well done that they deserve a listen no matter how many times you’ve read the book
P.S. Now that you’ve created a raving PotterHead fan, you’ll want to check out these other great Harry Potter related activities for kids:
- Harry Potter Potions Lab: Dragon’s Blood
- 5 Magical Harry Potter Snacks: For when you watch the movies together!
- Harry Potter Butter Beer Cake in a Mug
- Tips on visiting the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios
- How to make a Harry Potter scarf