Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Our Family Rule on Books and Movies

Years ago, I set a family rule in our household.

Our children must read the book before they can see the movie version.

My reason for having that rule is not to force reading on my children or to prevent them from seeing a movie. It is a conscious decision because 99% of the time the book that a movie is based upon is far superior than the movie is.

I want my children to learn that reading is worthwhile and can be superior to movies. One easy way to teach a child is to mandate that they read the book or hear the audio book or hear the story read aloud to them by a parent before seeing the movie. Our modern lifestyle is overloaded with television programs and movies and children don’t need any additional intentional action taken to learn that movies and television shows are quickly and easily consumed. I know from experience that once the strong visuals from a movie take hold in the mind it is difficult and inferior to try to read the book after seeing the movie.

Although they don’t always like the rule, and although the rule sometimes winds up causing us to watch the movie on DVD at home, having missed out on it in the movie theatre, my boys have both agreed that each time, the books are better than the movies.

So far, the only variation on this is the Harry Potter movies which on the one hand, disappoint them because they cannot be long enough to tell the entire story but they are still entertaining and thrilling. That is because with the Harry Potter movies, the creators have made the fantasy world come alive with wonderful special effects and dramatic music. Those of us who can love a book and the story can’t always form visual images in our minds to bring the book to life like a movie can. I’m speaking from experience here; my mind has not been able to visualize Hogwarts the way it is pictured in the movies. With the Harry Potter movies I feel that my son’s love of the stories from the books helped them enjoy the movie. They also love the movies and have watched them over and over.

Sadly, I know three boys, three non-readers (meaning, they can read but they don’t choose to read and they don’t like reading at all), who have watched the Harry Potter movies first and said, “Eh”. They don’t really like the movies. They have seen them perhaps twice. They have no desire to read the book, they tell me. That is sad, very sad. My boys have talked to those boys and have tried telling them how great the books are but the kids do not believe them. They hold firm that they have no intentions of reading the book.

Sometimes an easy key to finding good books is find which ones are being made into movies then go read those books before seeing the movie.

Another interesting thing is when I’ve had discussions with my boys about the book versus the movie. They have insights and opinions about why the movie was not as good as the book. Those discussions are not just fun for me to hear but they are working to help critical thinking skills. Those types of talks are effortless for my children to have. I hope some time in the near future I can get my boys to work on putting those thoughts into written form. That would be, I would think, an easy ‘writing composition’ exercise that would be superior to many of the ‘writing assignments’ suggested by various writing composition curriculums.

I encourage you to consider the ‘read the book before seeing the movie’ rule in your home.

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1 comment:

LivingByLearning said...

Totally agree. We have the same rule, and like you, very few exceptions. Originally, we withheld the first Harry Potter until my daughter read the book, but not my son.

Afterwards, I allowed both kids to see the Potter movies, without reading the books. They had no interest in reading the books, and they weren't ready for them anyway.

Over the years, we've enjoyed many book vs. movie discussions, and the book always wins. This week we'll see how the Twilight movie lives up to its book (and the hype!)with our Mother/Daughter Book Club.

Perhaps, this is one time when the movie will be better than the (bland) book!