The Harry Potter series by J K Rowling is brilliant to read aloud to your child but when's the best age to start?
My husband started reading the first Harry Potter book - Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone - to our twin sons when they were six. (I believe the book was called Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone in the US).
This was in 2001 when everyone was first talking about the books and the four of us were keen to find out what all the fuss was about.
And for our two at least, six turned out to be exactly the right age to start reading the Harry Potter series. The boys absolutely loved reading a chapter a night and their dad and I also loved discovering the story with them.
Each Harry Potter book is just a little bit more complex than the one before. For our boys and for millions of other kids around the world, this meant that they were pretty much growing up with Harry and his friends as they read their way through the series.
We read the first three books aloud as a family and have some very special memories of these times. My daughter was only three when we were reading them but she snuggled up on the bed to listen too and the experience seems to have inspired in her a life-long love of all things Harry Potter.
By the time Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire came out in 2005, my boys were eight and keen to tackle it on their own. The only problem was, they both wanted to be the first in the family to read it!
Basically the seven Harry Potter books are fantasy novels written by a British author, J K (Joanne) Rowling.
The books are about the adventures of a young wizard, Harry Potter, and his friends Ronald Weasley and Hermione Granger. The three are students at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The three friends are eleven when the first book begins and nearly eighteen at the end of the final book in the series.
The main story arc involves Harry's quest to overcome the dark wizard, Lord Voldemort, who seeks to conquer the wizarding world, subjugate non-magical people and destroy all those who stand in the way of his becoming immortal. The books tackle many themes, among them prejudice, the power of love, corruption, death, friendship, loyalty and good vs evil. They also involve elements of mystery, romance and adventure, woven together in a series of quite complex (and sometimes dark) subplots.
The first book in the Harry Potter series was released on June 1997. It was followed by six further books, all of which have been hugely popular around the world, selling over 450 million copies.
The first three Harry Potter books are great to read aloud to kids aged from about six or seven up. Certainly most children - both boys and girls - will love them from the age of eight.
If your eight-year-old is a fairly capable reader, he or she will probably be able to read the first three books independently. Remember though, that it can be fun to read aloud to older children and the Harry Potter books are great for this purpose because most adults enjoy the stories too.
The last four books are long and quite complex. Certainly many ten-year-olds will be quite capable of reading them but again, I think they're great for reading aloud to kids aged up to about eleven.
Most teens will enjoy reading the books and in fact the seventh and final book in the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is probably not suitable for readers under about thirteen. And if your teen does want to read (or re-read) the whole series, there are editions with more adult-looking covers so they're not embarrassed to be seen reading what they probably think of as kids' books.
The seven books in the Harry Potter series, in order, are:
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
The Harry Potter books have been made into eight films which were released between 2001 and 2011.
The films star English actors Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint in the leading roles of Harry Potter and his best friends Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley.
The films are terrific for adults and for children although, as with the books, they get progressively darker and more scary with more adult themes as you progress through the series. With that in mind, it can be a good idea to watch them yourself before you introduce your younger children to them.