The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (And Beyond!)
Spells, potions, Defence Against the Dark Arts classes. Quidditch, Butterbeer and feasts in the Great Hall.
These were the things I’d dream my school had while I waited for my letter from Hogwarts. And yes, even though I got my letter 10 years too late, the magic of the Harry Potter series still remains. And it’s not just me. The people that Harry Potter has impacted are plenty, and across industries, ages, even different sides of the classroom!
We had the opportunity to speak to Pratiksha, an educator who took the Harry Potter books to her classroom of 3rd graders. When we asked Pratiksha why she decided to take Harry Potter to her classroom, she revealed that she’s a Potterhead as well!
“(The decision) came from 2 layers. On a personal level, my formative years were shaped by the books and the ideas, the lessons I learnt. I still go back to the books and every time, I find something new. Second, the age group I taught, my students loved wondering. We discussed Matilda and other books, and I felt that this was the right time for my girls to be introduced to a book that was very dear to me. My girls were also at a stage where they could read the animated version of the book individually, and that’s what made me pick Harry Potter for my classroom.”
Pratiksha’s admission is very representative of her generation. The Harry Potter generation, as millennials are also called, created a landscape where books for children were so much more than that - they were instruments that made children fall in love with reading. Harry Potter also reached a very wide audience. A 2011 survey suggested that a third of all American adults ages 18 to 34 at the time had read at least one of the books.
Pratiksha brought her classroom alive in a way that I dreamed of as a child. As she shares,
“We had a house system and we also had reward points similar to the gems that students received on behalf of their houses. I used to teach in an Islamic school, so I had access to a burqa. I remember that in one of the lessons, I brought the burqa to class and made a cloak out of it. My girls went gaga, they were amazed at the sight. In the first book, there’s a section that talks about how people were moving around in purple capes. Seeing me in a burqa-cloak really helped set the context for them, and they could visualise it this way.”
Like Pratiksha, Harry Potter fans’ creativity knows no bounds. In the 2000s, fan forums, fanfiction, fan art archives and email discussion groups exploded across the internet. People took their love for Harry Potter to music (there’s a band called Harry and the Potters!), sports (people brought Quidditch to life!), and even their own books (Cassandra Clare of Mortal Instruments fame started out as a Harry Potter fanfic writer).
Harry Potter is equally capable of sparking important discussions. Take this one from Pratiksha’s classroom:
“I remember the 2nd chapter, where Harry and the Boa Constrictor have a conversation and my girls commented, “Baji, it’s not okay that Harry doesn't have any friends, he’s talking to a snake. If an animal can be his friend, why is Dudley not his friend?” For a 7 year old, to ask questions like this was very important. Those ideas and thoughts from the book were something that they engaged with. Personally, I don’t know how much they’ve stayed with Harry Potter, but I know that they remember the time we had spent together, decoding the book, learning about friendship.”
Pratiksha’s girls illustrate an important finding that’s been academically studied as well. Evidence from this study shows that reading Harry Potter has actually made children grow up kinder, more open-minded and empathetic, and less likely to hold prejudices against minority groups.
Harry Potter didn’t just impact the children and adults that read it. The books went on to change the Young Adult publishing industry too.
You see, before the Harry Potter books were released, children’s books weren’t doing all that well. Sales were falling, books were short and sweet because ‘children can’t read long books’, and very few authors and books existed for children to read. Rowling herself faced rejection 12 times before a publisher decided to publish Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.
Enter the wizarding world of Harry Potter.
Books for young readers increased in length - 173% longer than they were before the HP books were published. Gone were the days when children only read thin books. They were now reading 700-page books!
Sales of children’s literature, specifically books other than the Harry Potter series saw a total of 52% increase in sales.
The market for Young Adult fiction expanded, and more and more authors created books for children. We saw the rise of the Divergent, Twilight and Hunger Games series, books that not just made it big in the publishing industry, but also followed down the Harry Potter path and were made into movies.
Adults also carried this magic into their own world. From colleges offering courses on Harry Potter, people organizing Harry Potter conventions, to even those that use the Harry Potter fandom for successful social activism, many of us refuse to let the magic of Harry Potter die!
Take Fandom Forward. Set up by social activist and Potterhead Andrew Slack, fans from various fandoms have collectively campaigned, volunteered, protested and raised funds for several issues like literacy, LGBTQIA+ rights, net neutrality, and even labour rights. Perhaps their most famous campaign has been ‘Not In Harry’s Name’, an attempt to ensure that the chocolate used for Harry Potter-themed goodies is fair-trade certified. And in 2015, Warner Bros. committed to ensure that all Harry Potter chocolate products will be 100 percent UTZ or Fair Trade certified!
Even though the series has long since come to a close, the impact that the world of Harry Potter has coursed through generations, touching and transforming the lives of many. I can think of no better way to end this article than to quote the creator of this universe, JK Rowling, who says,
"The stories we love best do live in us forever. So whether you come back by page or by the big screen, Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home."
Written by Sukriti Pant