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The Harry Potter Controversy

Book Banning and Censorship Battles

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Back cover art of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling

PRNewsFoto/SCHOLASTIC

What's the Controversy All About?

The Harry Potter controversy has gone on, in one form or another, for years. On one side of the Harry Potter controversy are those who say that J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter books are wonderful fantasy novels with powerful messages for kids and the ability to make even reluctant readers eager readers; on the other side of the Harry Potter controversy are those that say that the Harry Potter books are evil books designed to promoted an interest in the occult since the hero, Harry Potter, is a wizard.

In a number of states, there have been attempts (see partial list of Harry Potter challenges from A university of Minnesota class), some successful, some unsuccessful, to have the Harry Potter books banned in classrooms, and banned or under severe restrictions, in school libraries. For example, in Gwinnett County, Georgia, a parent challenged the Harry Potter books on the grounds that they promoted witchcraft. When school officials ruled against her, she went to the State Board of Education. When the BOE confirmed the right of local school officials to make such decision, she took her battle against the books to court. Although the judge ruled against her in the spring of 2007, she indicated she might continue her fight against the series.

As a result of all of the attempts to ban the Harry Potter books, those in favor of the series have also been speaking out.

Speaking Out on the Harry Potter Controversy: kidSPEAK

What do the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, the Association of American Publishers, the Association of Booksellers for Children, the Children's Book Council, the Freedom to Read Foundation, the National Coalition Against Censorship, the National Council of Teachers of English, the PEN American Center, and the People for the American Way Foundation have in common? They are all sponsors of kidSPEAK!, which was initially called Muggles for Harry Potter. (In the Harry Potter series, a Muggle is a non-magical person.)

According to the organization, "Kids have First Amendment rights-and kidSPEAK! helps kids fight for them!" The group was most active in the early 2000s when the Harry Potter controversy was at its height.

Challenges and Support for the Harry Potter Series

The Harry Potter books were number 7 on the American Library Association's list of the 100 most frequently challenged books of 1990-2000. They are number 1 on the ALA's Top 100 Banned/Challenged Books: 2000-2009.

There have been challenges to the Harry Potter books in more than a dozen states. While many an article has been written in defense of the books, there have also been many written against the books.

The End of the Series Generates New Views

With the publication of the seventh, and last, book in the series, some people began to look back over the entire series and wonder if the series might not be a Christian allegory. In his three-part article, Harry Potter: Christian Allegory or Occultist Children’s Books?, reviewer Aaron Mead states,
    "Christian parents ought not to get hung up on the outward packaging of the Harry Potter novels—on the contrary, I think they should enjoy the magical packaging as interesting and fun. Rather, they should grasp the symbolism of the stories for what it is, and enjoy the familiar yet rich theological message that lives beneath the surface."

My Thoughts

I share the view that it is wrong to censor these books. Instead, I believe that parents and teachers should take advantage of the opportunities offered by the Harry Potter series to increase their children's interest in reading and writing and use the books to promote family discussions about issues that might otherwise not be discussed.

However you feel about the books, I hope that you will read all the books in the series, so you can make an informed decision about the Harry Potter books for your children. Participate in Banned Books Week activities, educate yourself about your community's and school district's policies, and speak out as needed.

For More Information About Book Banning and Kids' Books

See All About Book Banning and Children's Books for more of my articles about the subject.

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