Friday, February 27, 2015

Encouraging Reluctant Readers With Films

I've always heard the phrase, "the book is better than the movie." And in my limited experience, that has generally proven to be the case. But just because this is true, doesn't mean the movie isn't worth watching. And in the case of reluctant readers, watching movies may be the pathway to creating a love of reading.

My son has always loved a good story. But he's always preferred to hear one rather than read it himself. When he was little, he would always bring a book and ask me to read to him. Even in our homeschool, our read-aloud sessions were - and still are - his favorites. But when it came to reading himself, he wasn't very keen.

Until he discovered How to Train Your Dragon. And I don't mean the books. Oh, no. The movie and then the television series captured his imagination. Then one day, we happened to be on one of our weekly bookstore trips and he spotted a little book. It was a beginning reader featuring - yep! - How to Train Your Dragon. Normally, he would be pretty apathetic and impatient about our literary shopping trips. But not this time!

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Using Movies with Reluctant Readers

So we bought it. And when he finished reading it, he begged me for another. And then, even though I thought they were far too advanced and difficult for him, I bought one of the bigger books by Cressida Cowell. I read the first chapter, and right when he was thoroughly hooked, I got "too busy" and told him to read it himself. He whined and begged, but I was very firm and told him I would read some more the next day if I had time. Before I knew it, he was reading it himself...before bed, in the car, on the couch. I would help him with difficult words, but otherwise he read the whole thing himself. And then I bought him another. And another.

Then one day, we stumbled upon Jeffrey Brown's Jedi Academy. And my little Star Wars lover was gobbling down all of Brown's books on that subject. Now we all eagerly await young Roan's next adventure in the third book set to come out this June.

From there we started ordering Indiana Jones books and graphic novels.

And after that? We watched Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events. I balked at the $13 price per book. Lucky for him, though, we found most of the series in hardback at a used bookstore for only $4 each.

Using Movies to Supplement Reading

But don't get me wrong. My son, who is now a voracious reader at age 8, doesn't only read books about movie characters he loves. Remember how I said he has always loved a good story? Well, that passion for reading and stories has now grown to include new books and even classics.

My once reluctant reader now easily accepts reading assignments in school, although I've had to abandon many of the easier reads for his grade. We started a set of illustrated classics I found at our local bookstore and he read aloud Robin Hood, Robinson Crusoe, and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. But he couldn't wait and wound up reading Treasure Island and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer without me.

I surprised him with the movie versions of some of these titles...after he finished reading them!

Letting Kids Choose the Books They Want to Read

For school assignments, I've actively searched for "living books" written by authors passionate about the subject matter. We've even joined a homeschool book club.

Now we keep a basket in our car on the floor between my children's seats that holds an assortment of reading materials. Everything from comics to mysteries to classics to activity books to magazines. They read everything they can get their hands on. While my daughter has always been a strong reader, I didn't think my son ever would be. I'm so grateful for that I let him choose his own book. Even if it would be considered "twaddle" by some homeschoolers. Because I think to develop a love of reading in our kids, they need to be allowed to choose their own titles in addition to the ones they're assigned for school. Even (especially?) when that interest is created by movies.

25 Movies That Are Also Books

If you have a reluctant reader in your home, consider showing a movie first and then sharing the original or companion book. To help you, here's a short list to get you started. Or you may be interested in my other more comprehensive post, 55 Children's Books That Are Awesome Movies Too.

Keep in mind that there may be lots of other books or versions available than the ones I've listed here. For example, there are tons of books on Star Wars. But I listed Jedi Academy because it is perfect for a young child and emerging reader.

  1. Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder (television series / book series)
  2. Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling (movies / books)
  3. How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell (movies & television series / books - there are a ton of other books related to this series, including picture books, etc.)
  4. A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket (movie / books - the series is also available on Netflix)
  5. The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis (movie series / books)
  6. Dinotopia by James Gurney (television series / books)
  7. Anne of Green Gables by Lucy M. Montgomery (television series / books)
  8. The Call of the Wild by Jack London (movie / book)
  9. The Adventures of Tintin by HergĂ© (movie & television series / books)
  10. Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift (movie & television series / book)
  11. The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks (movie / books)
  12. The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling (movies / book)
  13. The Lorax by Dr. Seuss (movie / book)
  14. Peter Pan by James M. Barrie (movies / book)
  15. The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg (movie / book)
  16. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett (movie / book)
  17. Stuart Little by E. B. White (movies / book)
  18. Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson (movie & television series / book)
  19. The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas (movie / book)
  20. Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne (movie / book)
  21. Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne (movie / book)
  22. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame (movie & television / book)
  23. Jedi Academy by Jeffrey Brown (spin-off of Star Wars) (movies / books)
  24. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl (movie / book)
  25. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett (movie / book)

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