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I’m a big Harry Potter fan. The first few came out when I was in middle and high school, and the later ones when I was in college. I have vivid memories of going to Barnes & Noble with my sister at midnight to get two copies (we shared a lot growing up, but no way were we going to share those!). So as soon as I became a parent nearly a decade ago, I started wondering what age to read Harry Potter with my kids.
Turns out, there’s no right age for Harry Potter (or a multitude of other books and milestones). Every family and every child is a bit different.
Every Kid and Book In The Series is Unique
And every book in the series is a bit different, too! I’d originally held off on having my older two progress to book 4 right away since they were fairly young when they read books 1-3. I picked an age when I think they’d be ready, but then ended up letting my oldest continue on a bit before that (after a year and a half of asking). With my second, I let her continue even earlier (again with over a year of begging nearly daily). I thought they’d be scared. They were both totally fine. So it really depends on the kid.
Still, I love hearing other families’ experiences – even if it doesn’t exactly inform our own, it gives me a better idea of what has worked with other children. Plus, it’s always helpful to have a few signposts to look for.
Here’s our family’s experience with introducing the Harry Potter books with kids and what ages have worked well.
What Age for Harry Potter Books: Our Family’s Experience
What Age to Read Harry Potter Aloud
The first time we read Harry Potter aloud as a family, my kids were 6, 4, and 2. Our 6 year old had already read the 1st book on his own at that point, so he was very invested. My 4 year also loved it. The 2 year old didn’t catch much of anything, but was happy to listen in.
We’ve read them on and off several times since then. We’re currently reading the first 3 books aloud again (we’re in the middle of book 2). I’ve never read books 4 and beyond aloud – my kids have always been too excited by that point to wait for me to read them aloud, so they just dive in on their own and devour them.
Right now, my 3rd kiddo is 5 years old and is very into the read alouds. While he doesn’t catch everything and we occasionally need to review important plot points, he catches most of it. And he LOVES all the magic and funny parts, and always asks for more. So we’re going with it. Our current 2 year old gets very chatty during reading time so one of the adults will usually read him other books in another room.
My current 9 and 7 year olds are delighted to hear Harry Potter as many times as possible; they’ve each read the first 3 books at least 4-5 times and don’t tire of them.
With all that said, ages 5-6+ have seemed to work really well for our family to start reading the first few books aloud.
What Age to Read Harry Potter Independently
For independent readers, the timeline varies quite a bit more. As soon as my oldest got the hang of reading, he dove right into independent reading. He liked challenging himself, so read the 1st book on his own the summer before he entered kindergarten. He enjoyed it and started the 2nd book, but wasn’t as engaged with that one. So he waited until the following summer to read books 2 & 3. At that point, he was all in.
With our 2nd, she also took off on independent reading fairly early and read the first 3 books while she was in kindergarten. The stories hooked both of our first 2 kids, and they begged to go on to book 4.
My 3rd kiddo, who is now 5 and about to enter kindergarten, is able to read. But he doesn’t usually love to do it unless someone is sitting with him and guiding him through. He still prefers to look at the pictures when spending time with books on his own, and doesn’t quite feel read to read totally independently – which is totally okay! He’ll get there eventually. There is ZERO rush to push them faster than they feel comfortable. Above all, I want reading to be a fun and enjoyable experience. It would be terrible to take away from the magic of Harry Potter by pushing a child to read it independently earlier than they’re comfortable.
What Age for Harry Potter Books 4-7
Waiting for Harry Potter Books 4-7
I felt pretty okay with letting my kids read books 1-3 whenever they felt ready. Again, there’s no joy in forcing a child to read a book when they’re not ready. This is especially true when they’re just starting to get the hang of reading. So I 100% let them dictate when to move onto independent chapter books.
Books 4-7 felt different, though. They get pretty dark, and I just didn’t feel totally great about letting my 6 year olds continue. So I had them hold off for a bit once they finished book 3. During that time, they reread the first books multiple times. They also begged me to let them continue on a daily basis.
When I Let Them Read Harry Potter Books 4-7
We finally told our oldest he could continue on when he was starting 2nd grade (a few months shy of his 8th birthday). I knew he didn’t scare easily, and wasn’t prone to nightmares or anything. So we figured we’d try out letting him read book 4 (which he also really wanted to read on his own, not aloud, so that he could read as quickly as he wanted). That worked well and he was immediately gung ho to complete the rest of the series. He never felt frightened and just loved the entire experience, so it felt like the right decision.
When our daughter was almost 7.5, a friend mentioned trusting her kids to judge for themselves if something was too scary, and that she didn’t restrict books based on age. Her 7 or 8 year old was reading the Harry Potter series and felt fine, and she trusted her. She made a great point, so we cautiously told our daughter she could continue on if she wanted. Again, she didn’t tend toward nightmares and didn’t scare easily. I made it clear that she could tell us anytime she felt frightened and that she could stop whenever she wanted, and also checked in with her regularly. And she loved them! She flew through books 4-7 in about a month and a half.
What I Learned About Intense Books for Kids
The thing with the Harry Potter books is that while there is some intense content, the message makes it absolutely worth it in my book (no pun intended). The themes of love, loyalty, and choosing what is right definitely justify some of the frightening content for me. I also felt that since those particular children of mine don’t scare easily, that they would be okay (or at least be aware enough to tell me if it was too much). And they were.
Seeing that helped me feel more confident in allowing my kids to be the best judge of what they can handle. Of course, this isn’t perfect – there’s definitely some mature content that I wouldn’t want them encountering at a young age. But if it’s stuff that isn’t graphic or overly violent, or has a strong message of hope and goodness, then I’m okay letting them read it if they feel comfortable and have the desire.
Is That The Best Age for Harry Potter Books for Every Kid?
Absolutely not! There are plenty of children (my own included) who aren’t ready to read Harry Potter independently or even aloud at that age, or who are ready much sooner. The books wouldn’t frighten some kids who are even younger, but would make some kids uncomfortable years later.
You know your kid!
For me, the two most important questions when making that decision were, 1. Is my child interested/do they have the desire? Are they the ones asking to read it, or is it me who is pushing it on them? and 2. Do they scare easily at other media? Are they likely to be scared, and then have negative reactions? Will this deter them from reading in the future?
For us, I was easily able to respond YES to the first question and NO to the second, which gave me confidence in allowing them to move forward. And it was absolutely the right decision for us. Both of my older two LOVED (and still love) the books, and have read them numerous times since. The second my daughter finished book 7 a few months ago, she went right back to reread one of the books. My oldest has read the series probably 9-10 times over the last few years. He also regularly rereads just his favorite passages. It’s pretty delightful seeing them connect over it and quote it to each other (and to the rest of the family!).
And if you’re wondering, we personally wait to watch any of the movies until they’ve read all the books. I feel like even the earlier movies change their perception and imagination for how the books look in their minds, so we just wait. I’m a meanie like that. 😉
I Hope Our Family’s Age for Harry Potter Books Helps You Decide!
While this won’t fit every family, I hope this helps you decide what the best age for Harry Potter books is for your kids. They’re a great way to spark interest and excitement in books. They’re also perfect for the family to connect. Most of all, I hope you and your kiddos enjoy the reading journey!
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