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7 Reasons Why Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings Should Be Required Reading in School

(Photo: Pedro Dias)

Neither of these series was required reading for me when I was in high school, but Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone was required reading when I took a children's literature class in library school. At the time, I was working full time and attending school full time, so I didn't look at the hefty Harry Potter novel on the syllabus with any joy. One afternoon, I walked into a bookstore, skimmed through a copy in 3 hours, and crossed it off my to-do list.

I didn't enjoy reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. But perhaps I would have if I had experienced it through a literature class led by a good teacher. Mackenzie Patel of the Huffington Post thinks that the Harry Potter novels and J.R.R. Toklien's The Lord of the Rings should be required reading in high school English classes. Here are her first 2 arguments:

1. Both novels teach the importance of loyalty, friendship and honesty (i.e. the classic trio of Harry, Ron and Hermione and the Fellowship). For example, in chapter 5 of Harry Potter and The Half Blood Prince, "He [Harry] knew that Ron and Hermione were more shocked than they were letting on, but the mere fact that they were still there on either side of him... was worth more than he could ever tell them."

2. Both include advanced vocabulary that would be a boon when students have to take state-administered exams (i.e. I received a 790 on SAT reading because I read like a fiend). Lord of the Rings takes the gold medal in this category for including obscure words such as "malice," "unceasing," and "bestirred."

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Do you agree with Patel's conclusion?

I'm a bit sad that a 17-year-old who "reads like a fiend" considers "malice" to be an obscure word.

I don't know that I'd be in favor of adding any long series like this to the required English curriculum; there's only so much time in a year. They're fine works for adolescents, though, and at schools that offer genre-themed elective courses for senior year I think they'd be excellent options.
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Lord of the Rings is a pretty dense fantasy. At points, it's like reading a history book. If you like fantasy, you may like the books. Harry Potter is much more accessible, which is why more kids are reading it. But the first book doesn't have the best writing. It's a good story, and excellent world building. But not great.

If you want to mix in a little of the fantasy/sci-fi, I'd go with classics like Ursula LeGuinn or Harlan Ellison. Or if you want more contemporary, Jay Lake's Green series or any Paolo Bacigalupi.
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If you watch the movies, you might think that the books are fast-paced fun adventure, but I was, in fact, required to read the first book for intermediate school and I found it incredibly boring. Also, the books are really sexist. All the adventuring is done by guys and females are only rarely acknowledged to even exist. Last thing that girls in schools need are more books written by dudes about how only dudes can do cool stuff.

I agree with Harry Potter though (which I was also required to read for school and loved so much that I got way ahead of the class in the readings).
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