♥ Harry Potter and the Quality of Books for Boys
There is a lot I like about the Harry Potter movie and books in a Grimm’s Brother-fairytale-kind-of-way. I love the music, the castle, the special effects. I love how the beaten-down kid sides with good over evil and wins.
Let me be candid, though. My son asked if he could be Harry Potter one year. I told him, “No. There are things in Harry Potter that if you do in real life can curse you.” Then I explained those things to him. Gothic sounding, maybe, but either the Bible is true or it is not. As for me and my house, we believe it is true.
That’s not my beef, here, though. My beef is two-fold, and like a good cake, one part folds into the other.
Harry Potter is a great example of the lack of good book choices for boys today. Students at one middle school could earn Accelerated Reader points for reading Harry Potter, but they couldn’t earn points for reading George Washington, American Boy, Davy Crocket, American Boy, or even Abraham Lincoln, American Boy. The librarian explained that while the school had funding for the tests for girl historical books, they didn’t have the funding for boys’ tests. My sons were free to still read the books; however, with the reading requirements for the AR program, they didn’t have the time. They had to read the AR listed books and take tests.. If studies show that the best way to learn history is through reading histories, then my boys were definitely dumbed down.
One of my 5th grader’s favorite books is The Youngest Templar: Keeper of the Grail by Michael P. Spradlin. It’s a story, historically-based, that instills nobleness, courage, and life is tough, but goodness can prevail ideas. It’s not some kind of cotton-candy book that devolves into silliness but inspires to greatness.
Our public school book shelves are thinned out due to the “Keep-Christianity-Out-Of-Our-Schools'” ideology. A lot of historical books are kept off of school bookshelves because they mention Christianity: G.S. Henty is probably one of them, an adventure writer for boys in the late 1800s.
However, Harry Potter, which tutors about Wicca, a recognized United States religion, is allowed on our shelves. I don’t want Harry pulled off the shelves, though. I want equal time for those books that promote the values I want instilled in my sons—There two thousand years of stories of heroes who shaped Western civilization, shaped by Christian values, whose stories are a) watered down to delete God, b) They are not stocked because Christian values are blatantly mentioned, or c) Writers just gave up!
It’s a shame that a Judeo-Christian nation lacks writers who can create great adventures of good over evil that inspire, that dazzle. British writers C.S. Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia, and J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, have been the biggest sellers, movies and book reprints, in the 21st century. They are my personal favorites.
Trying to explain purpose to my classroom of college students one day, I asked, “What was Tolkien’s purpose for writing The Lord of the Rings?” One student answered, “To compete with J.K. Rowling.” I must admit, sadly, I had a good laugh at a student’s expense. As I watch the H.P. movies, I’m always amazed at how much she lifted from Tolkien and Lewis.
For a few years, I lived with miniature Legolases and Striders. As a matter of fact, the story line and characters promoted discussions about nobleness, selflessness, and even worthiness. I remember telling one son, who was wrestling with integrity and team-play (in the family), “Would Strider chose you to be in the fellowship? Does your behavior instill the values he needed?”
Where are the great American writers for our sons, writers who weave inspiration with values that are true to the American culture? And make boys eager, hungry to read!
I ask my college students to define their own personal culture. Ultimately, they initially write about what MTV and the media say, “America is materialistic, blah! blah! blah!”
I then ask, “Gee, are your parents materialistic? Do you consider yourselves materialistic?”
Stunned that someone would suggest their parents are materialistic, they say, “No.” Then I prompt them again to describe, define their own personal culture. Look at your neighborhood, your community, your family belief system–that’s your culture. Some eventually produce a wonderful definition of the culture they come from. Some can’t see beyond how the media has defined them, which is a shame.
Where are the great American writers for our sons? Writers who don’t sell out to media? Who aren’t afraid of the cultural values of most of America? Writers who inspire young boys to want to become men of great character who won’t go to Congress and ultimately cheat on their wives, take bribes, and sell out to their constituents? Men more like George Washington and Abraham Lincoln who stood up for the tough stuff!
I have been searching for 23 years for these types of books!
*If you have any recommendations, please list them for me! I’ll share them in a future post!
I am very impressed by this,and I agree with you 100%.
Great Post! And I agree. My son liked the Red Wall series. And the new Eragon books.
My son is still young (20 months), but he loves to read with me. I hate to even think about what will happen he’s older, but I thank you for giving me a heads up on the book situation. In having a son, I have realized many things… one of which is an absolute bias towards girls in everything from clothing to opportunities. My biggest frustration (so far): when I have to shop for something nice for my son to wear, and I see millions of pink frilly dresses and only play clothes for boys. So, apparently boys never go anywhere nice, or never have to “dress up”. Did/do you have this problem too? I guess now I will have to worry about a book bias… maybe us moms of sons need to get together to bring this to someone’s attention… Thanks for this great post. 🙂
I agree with most of what you wrote here, and am glad to see that you aren’t trying to get Harry Potter pulled from the shelves. But I would just like to say that Harry Potter does not teach about Wicca. No Wiccan would think for a moment that the wave of a wand and a single magic word would actually make something visible happen immediately. The “spells” listed in HP are all simple Latin words (for instance engorgio is simply Latin for engorge – nothing magic about it). In this sense HP is more akin to a magician doing conjuring – abracadabra and look, a white rabbit!
The wizard world in which it mostly takes place is as fantasy-based as Narnia or LOTR – step through the magic wardrobe or magic pub door and find yourself somewhere quite different – and there are good wizards in LOTR too yet no one suggests that they teach Wicca. I’m not a huge fan of the films but have read all the books. (Narnia, LOTR and HP).
Having said all that – which you have probably heard before – I agree that great Christian writings are hard to find. There is one set that I grew up with (I’m 30), by a British author called John Houghton. I believe they are now known as the Oswain tales. Your boys may be too old for them, I’d say age range 8 to 12. These books are stil in the fantasy range though. Perhaps you’ve also heard of Stephen Lawhead? His characters are always followers of the One True God (whether in our world or in one of his own devising). I personally like the Merlin series, and there are books about St Patrick and a monk travelling to Constantinople too (“Patrick” and “Byzantium”, respectively).
Hope you find something good in there.
Very thought provoking… so much truth in what you are saying… wish I had recommendations… sadly, I dont…
It’s so important to draw attention to reading, and attract reluctant readers to it,especially boys.
I grew up as a reluctant reader, in spite of the fact that my father published over 70 books. Now I write character building, action-adventures & mysteries, especially for tween boys, that avid boy readers and girls enjoy just as much.
My blog, Books for Boys http://booksandboys.blogspot.com is dedicated to drawing attention to the importance of reading.
Keep up your good work.
Max Elliot Anderson
I have not personally read but have read many reviews about “Looking for God in Harry Potter” … might be a good read….
Hi! Thanks for stopping by my blog. I have been looking through yours and love that you have so much wisdom about raising boys. I have three myself (ages 11, 9, and 2). I’ll be back to visit.
Gary Paulsen writes boy friendly books. A bit mischievous at times (How Angel Peterson Got His Name) but I enjoyed them along with some of my male students.
You mention about “as you watch the HP movies….” but have you read the books? Just curious, for I think that helps to truly form an opinion on the Rowling series. I tried to avoid reading them for so long, for many reasons. One was to avoid jumping on the Harry bandwagon and another was the opinions that you expressed. Being an educator of 9th graders at the time, I figured I should be familiar with what my students were reading. The books are wonderful, and my spirit never once felt in conflict while reading. So many spiritual elements are present, even if there are some magical elements within as well. I like Mika’s perspective on such, and I think that much of what we read or view can be positive or negative, mainly depending on how pervasive we let the material be in us. You can be “in it not of it.” I know HP was not the main intention of this post, but from most of the comments, this seems to be the portion that has struck a chord. Many of the YA books that have male protagonists tend to have them setting great moral examples (_The Giver_ first comes to mind). Although they may not be “Christian” by classification, they most certainly have elements that can be applied to a Christian life.
Yes, I read them all and enjoy them; however, there are times I’m struck by the similarities to Lewis and Tolkien’s books. Harry definitely struggles with rules, though. He seems to be quite oblivious to them. That’s somewhat dissconcerting. I’ll be posting a part 2 to the discussion either tomorrow or Saturday. Thanks for the books suggestions and the very pertinent comment:)
Thank you for stopping by on my post. It gave me a great opportunity to come and check out your webpage. I just love the name “blue cotton memory”.
I really enjoyed reading your post. I too enjoy HP but probably won’t let my kids read it. I agree that we should have equal time on the shelves and am frustrated with the reverse standard that seems to apply.
I love it that you are reading such books like LOTR with your children and how you actually used it as a teaching tool.
My son is only 2 so I am not there yet but you have given me food for thought.
BTW.. one commenter mentioned Byzantium.. an excellent book.
You’ve written an excellent post! My (Boomer) husband was asking me why Harry Potter is so popular. You’ve answered his question, and I’ve just read your thoughts to him. Thank you.
I’ve retweeted this so others can partake. Bless you!
I can’t believe I’ve never found you before — I’m a boy Mom (four for me) and blogger as well. (Check out my blog at http://www.bloggingboutboys.blogspot.com.)
That’s a shame, about the boys not being able to receive “credit” for reading those historical books. We homeschool now, and I’m so glad that my boys have the opportunity to read what they want when they want.
I read this post of yours slowly and didn’t want to miss a word. In the past, I would try to read as many blog posts as I could and found myself skipping over words to read fast. But I have realized it is not fair, and doesn’t do justice to the blog author. So I have decided that whenever I visit someone’s blog, I will be “truly present” and read the heart of the writer. That’s extending friendship with intellectual honesty and integrity. THen I leave an honest nd well thought out response And it works! It builds bridges. People want to know someone cares enough to listen. They matter. They have value.
It is sad that Christian values are being taken out, but not the values of the Kingdom of Darkness, so subtly espoused by the Harry Potter series. Satan has blinded people so effectively, or so it seems. Something in me just refuses to give the enemy of our soul that much credit.
God is still the sovereign One on the throne of the universe. There will be a day of reckoning, and a day of accounting, when everything will be evened out. And the true losers will be exposed.
I also love TOlkien and CS Lewis. I first read Lewis and Tolkien 30 years ago when I was just a young CHristian attending the University of the PHilippines. So, how can it be the Rowlings would write to compete with Tolkien?
I never even imagined their books could be made into movies. At that time, Star Wars was pretty fantastic in my opinion. So to my great delight, there were good Christian movie makers who were able to turn Narnia and Lord of the Rings into great movies!
YOu may want to visit my blog friend RObert, the author of the blog Hand of God (look for his address on the sidebar of my blog under, Blogs Worth A Read). He has been writing a few posts on Lord of the RIngs.
I pray your sons will have the heart to read the stories of the great men of God, about Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Gideon, Noah, John the Baptist, ELijah, Elisha, David, Peter, Paul, Jesus Christ… from the pages of the Bible. May they develop the love for reading about these great heroes of our faith, and may the HOly SPirit give them the anointing to let the inspired word of GOd sink deep into their hearts.
We need men who will be willing to be raised up, and prepared as the en time Joel’s Army for the end time battle of the ages…
You are at a very strategic point of history. We parents are. We are the mentors of the 30s and under generation (children born in 1978 up). There is a special call upon this generation, and we are to be their mentors… Awesome responsibility.
May God continue to inspire your heart in mothering your sons. I love your heart.
Wow! What a great post!
I wanted to stop by and say Hello and thanks for stopping by my place! It’s always a lot of fun to see a new face!
I am Michael Spradlin the author of THE YOUNGEST TEMPLAR: KEEPER OF THE GRAIL. Thank you so much for the very kind comments about my book.
Michael P. Spradlin
I saw a book at the shop this weekend and thought of you! (Yes blogs fill up my entire waking life… no, not really).
Anyway it’s called the Dangerous Book of Heroes, by Conn and David Iggulden who wrote the Dangerous book for Boys. Here’s the amazon.co.uk link because it has reviews – the amazon.com has no reviews but you can get the book there.
Evidently the Igguldens have written fiction too, but I have no idea what their values may be.