Saturday, March 9, 2013

Potter Series Stretches Lexile Levels

  I've been under the weather for some time, and Harry Potter has kept me company.  All seven main series books ... all (roughly) 5,000 dense pages.

There were moments when I thought the series was silly, cheesy, sensational, epic, average ... I was all over the place.  I'll leave a book review for others, adding only that the series as a whole has earned its place on my book shelf, even if it falls a bit short of the massive over-hype it has received over the years.

I'll introduce my son to this series early on, because it is a thoughtful, fun and imaginative roller coaster for the reader; however, I think the real strength of the series is in the way it secretly stretches young students.

The series is recommended for kids ages nine and up, but if you look at the Potter Series Lexile levels, they are significantly more advanced than the ages for whom they're intended.

Just as interestingly, the Lexile levels actually increase as the series progresses ... the books kind of grow with the reader, who is growing up with Harry (the main character, if you didn't know).

When you contrast the series' levels to the Lexile grade equivalent, it's clear these books will foster both imagination and reader sophistication. It's like reading President Obama's last state of the union, only with wizards, dragons, wand fights and a complex story line that twists and turns until the final pages of the seventh and last novel. Actually, Obama's speech came in at an 8th grade level, while some of the Potter books hit a 12th grade level - surely quite a challenge for a lot of the young children tackling these thick, fun books.

A quick side note on the content of these books: When the series hit there was a media splash and a lot of attention regarding possible promotion of witchcraft among impressionable young kids. I didn't see anything more harmful or much different than what's found in the C.S. Lewis Narnia series. If you are worried about this series corrupting your child, you'd better not let him or her out the front door. And throw out your TV set, and radio while you are at it. Of all the negative cultural influences out there, this series doesn't even make my radar.  I'm not a preacher, but I'm a father (and husband, my wife / editor just pointed out), teacher, spiritual person, and pretty straight-laced fellow these days.

I hope the Potter books inspire my son as The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe inspired me so many years ago.

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