It's the 20th anniversary of Harry Potter today!
To celebrate, we've rounded up all the ways that reading Harry Potter as a child makes you a better person as an adult.
It's true that reading as a child in general can expand your imagination and make you more accepting of other people, but there's something special about the Harry Potter books. The fact that it's one of the biggest franchises in the world proves that ten-fold. The below reasons will feel familiar to Potterheads, but if you're not accustomed to the wizarding ways, here are some reasons you may want to give it a try!
1. It makes you appreciate your family.
The very first thing we learn about HP is that he's got literally no one he can count on. His parents perished when he was one-year-old and he's forced to live with his grotesque Aunt Petunia, Uncle Vernon, and Cousin Dudley. Reading about this poor little boy living in the cupboard under the stairs might just make you remember to call your mom like you were supposed to.
2. You learn that friends can become your family.
Okay, so this isn't news to us, but when you read how much Harry, Ron, and Hermione love each other and see how they literally put their lives on the line for each other, it might make you tear up. As Harry has had no love from his family to speak of, the bond that he forms with Ron and Hermione is strong and they become his family. In every single book, they are all ready and willing to sacrifice themselves to save the other, to step out of their comfort zones, and put their faith in each other.
3. It teaches you that knowledge is power
Okay — read those books and show us an example of when the day wasn't saved (at least partially) by a piece of knowledge or a fact that Hermione had known and stored away in her bushy head?! She's derided by almost every single character — especially Snooty Snape — at one point or another, but she refuses to be deterred. And anyway, she becomes Minister of Magic at the end (Wizarding Prime Minister for non-Potterheads) so there.
Professor Dumbledore is also basically the biggest boss of the whole series, and he is one smart cookie.
4. You know that women can be just as brave as men.
We quite often associate bravery with male characters, but in the Harry Potter book series, there are a refreshing amount of strong, confident, brave, courageous, and fierce female characters.
We've already mentioned Hermione's bravery, willing at a moment's notice to put herself in danger for the sake of her friends, but there's also Harry's mom, Lily Potter, who literally stared death in the face for the sake of her son and protected him with fierce love. There's Molly Weasley who spent most of the series worrying, cleaning, and cooking, and then at the end stepped up and killed the evil and dangerous Bellatrix Lestrange at the Great Battle of Hogwarts. Professor McGonagall who is strict and powerful, but ultimately loving.
It might not seem as though it's important anymore, but sexism is still prevalent, and it's so important that we show little girls they can be anything they want, regardless of gender. Female characters like these help them to realize it.
5. It teaches you not to judge a book by its cover.
Severus Snape. We all hated him because of how unnecessarily mean he was to Harry throughout the book series. But in fact, Snape's personal story is one of the most heartbreaking.
He, of course, fell in love with Harry's mom Lily after growing up with her. But when they got to Hogwarts, she made other friends and ended up with James Potter, who bullied Snape mercilessly with his friends. Snape hates Harry because he looks like James, but he actually sacrifices himself for Harry because of his undying love for Lily. His Patronus is even the same as hers.
On the flip side, there's Professor Quirrell, who just seems like a wet blanket, and then it turns out that he's got Voldemort on the back of his head!
6. You learn about devastating loss in a harmless way.
Well, it's harmless unless you start to feel a deep connection to the characters in the book. Learning about loss at a young age in this way helps prepare you for the inevitability of death in later life. Especially as the very first chapter reveals Harry's deep loss — his parents, who died to save him.
7. It teaches you not to underestimate anybody.
Let's all just take a moment to applaud Neville Longbottom and Rubeus Hagrid. Hagrid is seen throughout the series as a bit of a klutz, a bit of an oaf. Nobody takes him seriously. He doesn't fit in with anybody — being half-human, half-giant. But he loves Harry as though he were his own son, and takes care of him, again putting his life on the line to make sure he's safe. Hagrid is the first person Harry knows in his entire life who genuinely cares about him.
And Neville. Well, Neville starts off life at Hogwarts in a similar way. But we learn that his parents were also victims of Voldemort, as he drove them crazy with the Cruciatus Curse, and he was brought up by his grandmother. Neville destroys the final Horcrux — a giant snake — with a sword.
8. You learn the importance of loyalty.
You can't truly be friends with someone if they don't have your back. It's all very well loving someone implicitly and caring about them, but unless they're willing to stick by you through thick and thin, they can't be counted on.
Those who learn this at an early age can save themselves a lot of heartache as an adult, and one way to learn the importance of loyalty is by reading these books. Harry, Ron, and Hermione prove their loyalty to each other time and time again, and their lives are richer for it. But if we look at Malfoy, Harry's nemesis, his friends run at the first sign of trouble. He is ultimately a sad, lonely boy with no one that he can really count on to have his best interests at heart.
9. It teaches you to respect animals.
It's important to respect everyone — whether human or animal — but cruelty to animals is just intolerable. Harry Potter taught us how close humans are to animals through the Patronus charm and through their magical pets.
Your Patronus is essentially your spirit animal, and it is summoned to protect against Dementors — the soul-sucking guards of wizard prison Azkaban. The Patronus is an animal to who your personality is similar and that can encapsulate who you are as a person.
There were also the pets — in particular, Hedwig. Hedwig was Harry's pet owl that Hagrid bought him as a present on their first visit to the wizarding world, who stuck by his side throughout the entire book series, and ultimately threw herself in the way of a death spell that was meant for Harry, saving his life.
10. You learn how ugly prejudice is.
We learn that there are different types of creatures in the wizarding world and that some are deemed to be "lesser" than others. For example, if a wizard is born from two muggles (non-wizards), they are known as "mudbloods" — an offensive word — and "pure bloods" look down on them. But Hermione, who is a "mudblood," shows that there are literally no differences between the two — they are all wizards, at the end of the day.
There are also house elves, who are literally enslaved by wizards to clean their houses. They can only be freed when presented with an item of clothing by a wizard. Dobby the house elf is freed by Harry after Dobby helps him throughout the second novel, and by the end of it, takes on some of the most powerful wizards.
11. Love conquers all.
Is there ever a more important lesson to learn? One of the biggest messages in the book series was how love is a bond that can never be broken — even after death.
This article originally appeared on Closer.