J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter books, touches a chord in the hearts and minds of young readers. Millions of children gobble up her works as soon as a new one (six so far) is published.
Reading is such a critical thought adventure for children, and parents have the crucial role of monitoring the content carefully.
Belief in magic is an old trait in myth and literature. Rowling's saga of three friends growing up together away from home at a boarding school for young wizards offers young people a world where mystery and magic, good and evil, take place. She successfully dramatizes for all age groups the high stakes in the battle of conscience between right and wrong.
What parent would not support Rowling's portrayal of the values of loyalty, honesty, and courage in the face of life's perils? Such behavior gains stature and power in the imagination of young readers.
At the same time, this interest in magic indicates something for parents to address with their children - the obtrusiveness of evil imaginings.
The British author puts the cup of the dark arts to the lips of her young readers, albeit with a strong moral sensibility. She makes it abundantly clear that being moral is mandatory or dark forces will bring you down, as happens to many characters in the Potter series.
The world's idea of stimulating the imagination can be far from what is appropriate and healthy for a child. All parents, as they keep an eye on what their children are reading (or viewing), can take to heart the warning of the Apostle Paul: "Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ" (Col. 2:8).
Does this mean parents must be thought police? On some content, definitely. But the way in which a parent brings watchfulness to what a child reads is the critical element. Parents must have faith that the more children read, the better readers they become. Like the captain of a sailing ship, parents can steer a course through the winds and waves on the high seas of verbal imagination by trimming the materials their child encounters.
Mary Baker Eddy in her book "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" offered a compass on such matters: "It is the tangled barbarisms of learning which we deplore, - the mere dogma, the speculative theory, the nauseous fiction. Novels, remarkable only for their exaggerated pictures, impossible ideals, and specimens of depravity, fill our young readers with wrong tastes and sentiments. Literary commercialism is lowering the intellectual standard to accommodate the purse and to meet a frivolous demand for amusement instead of for improvement. Incorrect views lower the standard of truth" (p. 195). On this point the art of parenting is aided by the Science of Mind.
The divine Mind does not imagine. What God knows, is. God's thoughts are true. God's creation reflects the truth of Mind. So at the core of the experience of reading, a child may participate in the infinite blessings of God.
A parental insight on a movie, a book, a play, a TV show, meets the child's need in a way that is respectful of a child's wanting to make decisions that affect his or her life and development. As the reading habits of a child are cultivated, there can be confidence that reading empowers a child to become better at judging the value of the content read.
But there's even greater confidence in knowing that there is a world of difference between the artful imaginings of a writer and the fact of one Mind uttering truth. All truth is linked to this one Mind. It is a great support for parents to know they can assist children to see and identify with this truth.
• Adapted from the Christian Science Sentinel.