Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks to guests at the American Library Association's annual conference.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks to guests at the American Library Association’s annual conference.

Image: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Unless you have the emotional range of a Dementor, odds are you adore Harry Potter

And thanks to Hillary Clinton’s recent speech at the American Library Association conference on Tuesday, we now know she’s a serious Potterhead, too.

While speaking, Clinton, a resident book nerd, praised J.K. Rowling’s beloved series, and explained how books and Harry Potter inspire an important sense of compassion and empathy in readers towards members of minority groups.

“Years of data suggests that reading fiction helps build empathy. It helps us put ourselves in other peoples’ shoes,” Clinton said at the Chicago conference. “One study even found that young people who read the Harry Potter books, which first came out 20 years ago this week, were more compassionate toward immigrants, refugees and members of the LGBT community.”

She went on to address the important role that books play in the lives of young children who can identify with the characters. 

“And so, it’s impossible for me to overstate the impact on children who see themselves in the pages of a book and are introduced to people unlike themselves,” she said.

Though Clinton did not cite the exact study she was referencing, Yahoo noted the information was likely taken from a 2015 study, titled: “The greatest magic of Harry Potter: Reducing prejudice.” In the study, researchers reviewed how the literary series impacted the way students in elementary and high schools in the U.K. and Italy felt towards members of marginalized groups like refugees, immigrants, and LGBTQ people.

For the study, psychologist Loris Vezzali and his Stanford University colleagues read children passages from the Harry Potter books that showed the consequences of prejudice, such as the anger and humiliation felt after the character Draco Malfoy referred to Hermione as “filthy little Mudblood,” an insulting term to describe wizards with non-wizard parents.

For the control group, children read passages unrelated to prejudice. After six weeks both groups of children were studied and researchers found that students exposed to prejudice-related passages expressed a more positive attitude towards international students, refugees, and members of the LGBTQ community.

Before her speech came to a close, Clinton reiterated the importance of not only the Harry Potter books, but reading in general. 

“If we’re serious about raising curious, empathetic, brave citizens, that starts with raising readers,” she said.

The event was sponsored by Simon & Schuster, the publisher of the 2016 Democratic presidential candidate book of personal essays, which will be released this fall.

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