LRDG - Harry Potter and Boys' Literacies

Date: 12 June 2012 Time: 1 - 2 pm

Venue: C89, County South

Steve Dempster (Educational Research, Lancaster University) and Jane Sunderland (Linguistics and English Language, Lancaster University):

Against a backdrop of a 'moral panic' about boys' achievements at school, informal claims are often made about the Harry Potter series to the effect that it has markedly improved boys' literacy. Such claims, however, tend to have the status of folklore or anecdote. Now that the book (and film) series has come to an end, the time seems right to explore the question empirically. At issue is (some) boys' enthusiasm for reading and its relationship with the Harry Potter series, and whether the 'Harry Potter effect', if it exists, extends beyond the seven books. More generally: what motivates boys to read? Our focus is threefold: boys' literacy practices, achievements, and specific responses to the Harry Potter series (likely to be relevant to literacy practices and achievements). Supported by a British Academy small grant for a two-year project, we will explore these through (a) an initial questionnaire survey of boys (and, incidentally, girls) from local Primary and Secondary schools, (b) focus group interviews with boys (and again, possibly, girls) from the same schools, and (c) case studies of individual boys contextualised within family, school, and other Communities of practice, such as friendship groups. The project falls within at least four fields of research: masculinities, literacies, classroom research, and gender and language.

We start this presentation by looking at the background to this project: masculinities in school and boys literacies. We will then describe where we are at, at the very start of this project. We will present and explain our Research Questions and our plans for data collection, including our initial successful negotiations with a local Primary school, which necessarily raised questions of ethics and access. We hope to present an early draft of the questionnaire which is to be piloted in September. We welcome feedback on any or all of the above.

Event website:


Who can attend: Anyone


Further information

Associated staff: Steven Dempster, Jane Sunderland (Linguistics and English Language)

Organising departments and research centres: Educational Research, Lancaster Literacy Research Centre, Linguistics and English Language

Keywords: Education, Gender and language education, Literacy, Masculinities