Note to Journalists: The newest installment of the Harry Potter film franchise, "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban," is scheduled for release June 4. Two Purdue School of Education professors recently collaborated on a chapter of the book "Harry Potter's World: Multidisciplinary Critical Perspectives," which looks at the impact the stories can have on young people.

1. Expert warns Harry Potter movies may be scarier than books

2. Harry Potter can help children deal with grief, professor says


When "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" is released to movie theaters June 4, parents should be wary that even children who are old enough and mature enough for the books may not be ready to see the movie, says a Purdue professor who has researched the topic.

"The movie is not the book," says Deborah J. Taub, a professor of counseling and development in Purdue's School of Education. "Research has shown that movies are more frightening for children than books are. Besides the added visuals, sounds and a literally larger-than-life scope, movies also do not allow children the option of shutting the book and coming back later or skipping past a scary sequence."

She offers seven recommendations to help determine whether the movie will be appropriate for a children and ways to help children process the film's images and themes:

* Forbidding the movie and books is not the answer. Talk with your children about them instead.

* Know your child. The recommendation of experts is not a substitute for parental judgment.

* Discuss issues raised in the books. This can include topics ranging from witchcraft and the occult to loneliness, conflict with friends and difficulty with authority.

* Help children understand the differences between reality and the fantasy of the movie.

* Provide an adult presence while children are either watching the movies or reading the books.

* Distinguish between the books and the movies when evaluating your child's preparedness.

* Respect others' beliefs and viewpoints. Other parents will decide to handle the issue differently with their children.

Taub says parents also should evaluate each Harry Potter film independently. Just because children did not have a negative reaction to the first two films does not mean they won't to the latest.

"Early publicity suggests that the film and its new director are incorporating more frightening images than the previous two films," Taub says. "'The Prisoner of Azkaban' introduces the Dementors - faceless creatures that eat people's souls - and those are as frightening as anything children will encounter in the stories. I anticipate some children are going to find this movie very scary."

Taub recently wrote a chapter on the subject for the recent book "Harry Potter's World: Multidisciplinary Critical Perspectives."


In each chapter of boy wizard Harry Potter's story, death has played an increasing role in both the plots and in Harry's development and growth. From Harry's parents to a school friend, author J.K. Rowling's books, and the movies based on them, don't shy away from death.

Heather Servaty-Seib, a Purdue University assistant professor of educational studies and a counseling psychologist who studies grief and mourning in children and adolescents, says the films and books can serve as a valuable tool for teaching children about death. She recently wrote a chapter for the book "Harry Potter's World: Multidisciplinary Critical Perspectives."

"I appreciate the fact that Rowling discusses issues of death and dying, as it is important for children to be exposed to the topic prior to experiencing a death in their own lives," Servaty-Seib says. "Parents can use the deaths in Harry's life as teachable moments to begin conversations about grief and bereavement with their children."

As the series continues, some people have been upset that the story has become "darker." Servaty-Seib says this idea is mostly because of an increasing presence of death.

"This troubles me, because death is not 'dark,'" she says. "It is a natural and inevitable aspect of the human experience and not something abnormal or evil."

Servaty-Seib can discuss issues surrounding death and dying, as well as the impact of the Harry Potter films and books on children.

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