Tom McKay wrote of the success of the Harry Potter books in “teaching young people around the world to battle prejudice.”
But he missed so much more. Our eldest twin girl has issues she battles everyday: issues of self worth, anxiety, and others. As she was growing up reading the books, watching the movies, (what am I saying, she memorized the books and movies), there were so many positive images and attitudes than just defeating prejudice. Unless you think of the prejudice we have for ourselves. The prejudice of not feeling worthy in who we are or what we do, or how we look, think and feel.
Defeating the Dementors who come to suck the souls of the books characters was an excellent way to help teen age girls see how depression can suck out their own soul = joy of life, and leave them feeling depressed and isolated by self hatred, self harm and self abuse. Defeating those Dementors means learning to trust or relearning to trust in parents, teachers, counselors, religious, who can help them find their way back. By using an everyday version of the Patronus charm: for us it was prayer, remembering three good things about the day, three good things you, she, did that day, and three people you, she, could trust to help her, you; she began to to build a better view of herself and her world.
Than there are the positive images of intelligent likable girls like Luna and Hermione who don’t see themselves as oddities. These girls helped our daughter but can also help our teen girls, tween girls and young girls to that confidence is built not given. Luna and Hermione seek solutions, don’t wait for the boys to do it for them, work hard for goals they want to achieve.
Than there are the other major themes that help our tween/teen girls see the world, understand their issues, feelings and difficulties.
- There are themes of self reliance: Bad things happen, but I can and will survive.
- The book deals with larger questions of life: who am I, what is my purpose in life?
- The characters wrestle with issues of responsibility: Was it my fault that such and such happened, (the death in the maze), how do I deal with strong emotions, deaths of loved ones, harm that came to loved ones because of my actions/inactions.
These are major life issues that many tweens/teens can find difficult to face, or impossible to understand; and when a beloved character faces them and does well, it gives hope and shows our children they can as well. Our girls can analyze how the characters did what things and find out what happens when things are worked out, and see a brighter future when there is success. The girls can also see that success often comes from failure, or unexpected situations, and that it is alright that there is no prefect plan.