Jack and I have been reading Harry Potter for the past few months. I read to him at bedtime, after his shower, while he's eating his snack. He's not much of a reader on his own. Don't know if it's because he has trouble reading or he just doesn't enjoy it, but he enjoys me reading to him.
We're in the last book of the series now, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows." I warned him that it would get very dark and some of the characters would die. I knew it was a story about good versus evil, but it's been a few years since I read it myself, and I had forgotten some of the plot lines.
The other night we read a part about the Ministry of Magic (the government agency of the magical people, aka witches and wizards) passing a new law that required all "Muggle-borns" (those witches and wizards with non-magical human heritage) to register with the authorities. Some of the Muggle-borns were being carted off to Azkaban, the wizard prison, simply because they were not "pure-born" witches or wizards. This stopped me in my tracks for a moment.
Jack is in the 6th grade. So far in his education he's studied Ancient Rome, Greece, Egypt, South America, the Renaissance, the American Revolutionary and Civil Wars, and California history, but I don't recall them learning any modern day European history yet. Hmmmmm.
"Jack," I said, "have you ever heard of the Nazis? Or Hitler?"
"I know Hitler was a bad man and he killed himself." So he knows a little.
I told him that in the days leading up to WW2 when the Nazis first came to power, anybody who was Jewish or had Jewish relatives was required to register with the government and wear a yellow star sewn on their clothes to identify them as a Jew. And later on, Hitler started taking all the Jewish people he could find--including moms, dads and little children--to prison camps where most of them died. I tried to explain to him that 6 1/2 million Jewish people were killed by Hitler and the Nazis.
"Well, that's just wrong!" he said, with 11-year-old indignation.
"Yes, it was. It was very wrong." How do you explain such evil to a little boy? Do I even want to? Maybe not just yet. At least I can teach him to judge the people he meets by what kind of people they are, by what's in their hearts, and not by the color of their skin, their religion or where they may have been born. There are some good lessons to be learned from Harry Potter.