Question Tina-Valerie Education

What effect has Harry Potter had on the literacy levels of 8-12 year olds?

What effect has Harry Potter had on the literacy levels of 8-12 year olds?

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The Harry Potter book series provoked a flurry of reading the like of which has never been seen, but the extent to which it actively contributed to improvements in child literacy has been hotly debated. Many teachers, parents and even children themselves cited the books as having had a positive effect: in the throes of ‘Pottermania’ (the time when the books were still being released), a 2006 report by the publisher surveyed 260 parents: 85% reported that their child showed an increased interest in reading since Harry Potter, and 76% felt that this had helped their children succeed in school (Yankelovich and Scholastic, 2006). Dempster et al. (2016) undertook a study in which a sample of primary and secondary pupils encompassing the 8-12 age range were asked to discuss their own perception of how Harry Potter shaped their literacy skills and reading habits. The results of this revealed that many (though not all) participants considered the series to be a ‘major contributor to both their self-identification as readers and their wider literacy development’ (2016, p. 282). However, the assertion that Harry Potter had a tangible effect on children’s literacy is dismissed by Heilman as ‘largely a folk legend’ (2008, p.2). The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) agreed with this, stating that no demonstrable increase in reading among children was shown after the Harry Potter craze (2007). There is no way to gather empirical data on precisely how far the series affected literacy rates, as assumptions about cause and effect cannot be considered definitive, but an acknowledgement can be made that it improved children’s outlooks on reading and encouraged them to attempt new, perhaps more complex, texts. In this sense, Harry Potter could be stated to have had a positive impact on literacy development.


Dempster, S., Oliver, A., Sunderland, J. and Thistlethwaite, J. (2016). ‘What has Harry Potter Done for Me? Children’s Reflections on their ‘Potter Experience’’. Children’s Literature in Education 47.3, pp. 267-282.
Heilman, Elizabeth E., ed. (2008), Critical Perspectives on Harry Potter (2nd ed.). London: Routledge.
National Endowment for the Arts. (2007). ‘To Read or Not To Read: A Question of National Consequence’. Washington: Library of Congress.
Yankelovich and Scholastic. (2006). ‘Harry Potter data.’ The Scholastic Kids and Family Reading Report [Available online].