Newswise — Looking for a way the whole family can enjoy "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," the eagerly awaited sixth novel in J.K. Rowling's series that will be released on July 16?

Use it to start a Family Book Club, suggests Ken Haller, M.D., assistant professor of pediatrics at Saint Louis University School of Medicine and a pediatrician at SSM Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital.

"Research shows it is very good for parents to know the content of the books, music, movies and video games that their kids are enjoying because kids are affected by media. A Family Book Club is a way to create that atmosphere of sharing," Haller says. "That way, if difficult issues come up, this could be a way to discuss them."

Haller suggests the whole family get in on the Harry Potter craze " it's timed perfectly to promote summer reading for pleasure when school is out " and make it the first book the Family Book Club tackles.

Discussion of what's going on in Harry's life as he battles the forces of evil is a non-threatening way to explore things that children already are thinking about.

"Harry Potter is a social phenomenon. It's going to be very important for kids to read this book at the same time their friends read it. And everyone in the family is going to be reading this book, anyway. If you read it closely behind your children, if not at the same time, you can discuss with your kids their feelings about what's going on with Harry, Hermione and Ron as they go on their adventures in the sixth year."

When Rowling published her first Harry Potter book, the main character was 11 years old. In this book, he's 16, and despite the fact that he's a wizard-in-training, he faces many of the issues that normal adolescents confront.

"Each book deals with more mature themes as Harry and his friends are growing up. They are dealing with puberty, choosing good over evil, why they need to establish a personal moral code and the importance of loyalty and friendship. These are the kinds of things parents will want to address with their kids," Haller says.

"And, like Harry, all kids have felt misunderstood at one point, and that they have special talents that are unrecognized by the world."

Kids and teens often find it's less threatening to talk about things going on in a fictional character's life than in their own.

"Discussing big emotional issues in the third person is often easier for kids than talking about them in the first person," Haller says. "As adolescents go forward, life becomes more complicated and difficult. Kids have to deal with more complex things every year. This makes them feel like they're not the only one in the world going through this."

Besides, the Harry Potter series is fun literature and the perfect pool-side read for kids and adults.

"It's a classical coming-of-age story. There are archetypal heroes and villains. It has a lot in common with the King Arthur legends, Greek and Roman mythology and the Star Wars movies. Harry is not unlike Luke Skywalker. The three main characters in the book have all the character flaws of real human beings. They also have special powers. We all can identify with them."

Established in 1836, Saint Louis University School of Medicine has the distinction of awarding the first M.D. degree west of the Mississippi River. Saint Louis University School of Medicine is a pioneer in geriatric medicine, organ transplantation, chronic disease prevention, cardiovascular disease, neurosciences and vaccine research, among others. The School of Medicine trains physicians and biomedical scientists, conducts medical research, and provides health services on a local, national and international level.