Are Harry Potter books bad for children?

July 26, 2007 - 0:0

New Delhi (PTI) As pottermania rages across the world with the launch of the seventh and final installment in the tales of the boy wizard, so does a debate about whether the Harry Potter books could affect children in an adverse way by promoting witchcraft and superstition.

The massive popularity of the Harry Potter books have also brought along intense criticism on grounds of being inappropriate for children. An example of the flak the books are receiving is a letter to the editor in a national daily that complains that the Potter series glorifies magic and sorcery, also raising questions whether the stories are suitable for kids. In various countries, orthodox Christian groups have called for the books to be banned, claiming that they promote occult. Last month, a teacher in a London primary school refused to allow a seven-year-old student to read a Harry Potter book, saying it glorified witchcraft. While there are innumerable websites that fuel the Potter craze, there are also quite a few that call themselves to be 'anti-Harry Potter', saying the books promote superstition and are anti-Christian. Psychologists and educationists say there is a need to study the Harry Potter phenomenon, while refusing to out rightly junk the magical tales. ""It is an amazing phenomenon. It needs to be understood,"" noted educationist Prof Yashpal told PTI. Yashpal said children like to read fantasy and detest moralizing. ""From what I know about the books, they provide the children with fantasy, but there is no sermonizing. This could be a reason why the children are so caught up in the books,"" he added. Psychologist Sameer Parikh said what is important is the moral of the story, the triumph of good over evil. ""If it provides good moral education through fantasy, I don't see any problem,"" he said. But Parikh had a word of caution, saying children should get some parental guidance so that they can differentiate fact and fantasy. ""Just because there is magic in the stories, the books should be seen as promoting witchcraft,"" he said. Psychologist Aruna Broota said there are positive and negative sides of the Potter obsession. ""The books are helping expand the imagination of children, giving them a getaway from their stressful life. However, some parents and teachers are also coming up with reports that the madness over Potter is causing distraction from studies. Some extra-sensitive kids are also complaining of having nightmares."" The seven-part series is based on the experiences of Harry Potter, an orphaned boy who discovers that he has magical powers. The stories are about how he goes on to vanquish the evil wizard Lord Voldemort. Youngsters who are crazy about Harry Potter, however, are not bothered about how the debate shapes up and in fact wonder what is the fuss about. ""Adults always complicate things. I enjoy the stories and I am well aware that it is all just a make-believe world. The books also tell you a lot about the values of friendship and bravery,"" said 14-year-old Ananya Dasgupta. ""Harry Potter is so much like us. He is confused, but he finds a way out of tough situations. Despite all the magical powers, life has been a struggle for him,"" said Deepika, a class VIII student. (Source: