Why You Should Read Harry Potter (If You Haven’t Already)

Why You Should Read Harry Potter (If You Haven’t Already)

Harry Potter is the best-selling book series of all time, and the books are a lot of fun. But there could be more to the story of the boy who lived. Some recent studies have shown that reading the magical tale can increase empathy towards others.

Picture: Kara/Flickr

Reading has always been powerful and effective at altering people’s minds, and a trio of recent studies from the University of Modena in Italy have demonstrated similar power in J.K. Rowling’s bestselling series. The studies, led by professor Loris Vezzali, were conducted at three different levels: primary school, high school and university. All students were divided into two groups. One group would read passages relating to prejudice seen in the world of Harry Potter, and the second control group reading passages that did not have anything to do with prejudice.

The results were positive, with students in the first group showing more empathy towards commonly stigmatised types of people. The researches believe the benefits come from seeing things in a different perspective, and encountering stigmatised types of wizards and creatures in the books. Bret Stetka at Scientific American sums it up well:

Literature with complex, developed themes and characters appears to let readers occupy or adopt perspectives they might otherwise not consider; and it seems that Rowling might get at the beautiful, sobering mess of life in a way that could have a meaningful impact on our children’s collective character.

So if you or your kids haven’t yet had the chance to dive into the magical world of Harry Potter, there’s some possible benefits that can come along with the joy of reading.

The greatest magic of Harry Potter: Reducing Prejudice [Journal of Applied Social Psychology via Scientific American]


  • Pretty sure there are a LOT of books that would teach you about empathy, and given the lack of it that people seem to have nowadays, maybe just a good broad range of books would do just as much good. You might even learn about other things besides Muggles and Wizards too..! 🙂

    edit: I haven’t read the Harry Potter series, although I have watched the shows, but I’ve read hundreds of other kinds books..!

    • Fair enough Tim, but this article discussed the *measured researched* response to this particular series.

      Maybe “just a good broad range of books would do”, but maybe they wouldn’t.

      We don’t know, because the research has not been done.

      BTW: I’m not vouching for the research, but I’m not surprised by the claimed results. I have read these books (as a parent, while my children were reading them too).

    • I have a couple of thousand paper books (at least) and still buy dead-tree books pretty often but an electronic reader has its own advantages. It’s very nice to carry what amounts to a substantial library around, which would require several large backpacks in paper form.

      In my case, as I’m frequently in the habit of reading several books in parallel, it has other advantages.

      As for Harry Potter, I have read the series. It’s interesting in spots and not entirely predictable; it has the unusual property for a YA book that not all the children are heroes and not all the adults are villains.

      • An ex girlfriend forced me to watch the first movie, and it was garbage, storyline was unoriginal, the characters actually annoyed me, i’m not a fan of the whole ” im the chosen one, but im just an awkward kid who doesn’t really want to do it but will because its thrust upon me” thing.
        And from what im told about the books from my partner (who enjoyed the books), the writing style and the story don’t actually get better.

        Just not my thing i guess

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