There are few things more exciting as a child than to see your favorite book come alive on screen. Movies can breathe new life into books sitting dusty on the shelf, and they can help introduce readers to new books!
Book or Movie? Which comes first?
Should I watch the movie first or read the book? This one all depends on your kid and how interested they are in reading. At our house, we do a little of both, but I generally like to read the book first. We choose novels to read aloud as a family and celebrate finishing by watching the movie. The kids love to see if what they imagined while listening to a story matches what they see on screen, and they enjoy trying to spot the differences between the book and the movie.
If you have a reluctant reader, watching a movie can be a great way to introduce them to a series of books. Did you love watching Captain Underpants? There’s an entire book series that continues the adventures!
Early Readers: Places to Start
Sometimes our family novels don’t’ hold my four-year-old daughter’s attention. She has always enjoyed reading picture books aloud with the family, but it took her some time to enjoy books independent, and especially for them to tear her away from her first love, the television.
We used to watch Mickey Mouse Clubhouse a lot in our house. For some reason, those computer-animated Disney characters and their ridiculous clubhouse brought her joy that nothing else could. Though I was reader to cut all ties with the show and it’s characters, her love of Mickey Mouse was a great opportunity for her to love Mickey Mouse Clubhouse books!
Let’s be real – short television tie-in books are certainly not literature. You may want to throw them out the window after reading the inane and ridiculous stories. We have a set geared towards teaching the alphabet – as you can imagine, the stories are lacking, but my daughter insists on reading them at bedtime. I truly believe that these books are where my little one developed her love of books. She loved the familiarity of the characters, the bright colors and pictures, the simple stories and the comfort they brought her. She even started sleeping with them!
Find some books from your child’s favorite television show and let them practice “reading” on their own. Don’t worry too much about the content – this is just a place to start.
Great Books and Movies
Here are a few of our favorites:
- Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone
This was the absolute highlight of my older daughter’s summer last year. She was six at the time and I wrestled a little with the content being age-appropriate. We read a few chapters to test it out and followed along well. She’s told me since that reading Harry Potter together was her favorite part of every day. She just about lost her mind with joy when we watched the movie. There were a few scary parts that were more frightening on the screen than on the page, but we knew they were coming and were prepared. We have since gone on to read the second and third books in the series and loved watching the movies when we finished.
- Captain Underpants
Yes… Captain Underpants is a huge favorite in our house. It began with a book obsession in Kindergarten. Hailey’s teacher asked me one afternoon if she was allowed to check them out from the school library. I foolishly agreed and the rest is history. Beware – Captain Underpants comes with all the potty talk that you would imagine and there is a very high probability your child will run around your house in underwear and some sort of fashioned red cape, screaming about defeating Professor Poopy Pants. You have been warned.
Honestly this book was the beginning of when Hailey went from enjoying books to absolutely devouring content. They are a fun mix of a traditional story and comic book frames and are full of all the silliness your impressionable youngster could want. The movie is surprisingly sweet, and though I made my husband take the kids to see it in the theater, I don’t mind too much when it’s on in the background at home.
- Roald Dahl
Remember reading Roald Dahl books as a kid? I had forgotten about them until Hailey came home from first grade and told me her teacher read The BFG and James and the Giant Peach to them in class. There have been quite a few adaptations of Roald Dahl classics and the books are accessible enough that the whole family can enjoy them.
- The BFG – The Big Friendly Giant was recently made into a live-action movie. Hailey saw it before she read the book and really enjoyed it. In the interest of full disclosure, I thought the giant was difficult to understand and fell asleep several times, but I live my life in a state of fatigue. She didn’t mind! Alternatively, you can check out the 1989 animated version if you’re feeling nostalgic!
- James and the Giant Peach – Yes, the story is a little strange, but what child doesn’t love giant friendly bugs and an escape from life’s hardships via an enormous peach? After reading, check out the well-rated stop-motion animated version.
- Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – This one is tough for me. The book caught my eye during a recent trip to the library. I felt inspired by the stories Hailey was reading with her teacher in school and decided to continue the trend at home with Charlie and the Chocolate factory. The subject matter had Hailey and my younger daughter, Juliet, completely entranced. It’s a less dense read than Harry Potter, and the chapters are short, so it’s easy for everyone to pay attention long enough to finish a few chapters a day.
I must have seen the original 1975 Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory at a tender age because I was traumatized by the children’s dark fates, and especially by the songs on the Oompa Loompas sang. I’ve promised to be brave and to watch it with the kids when we finish the book. We might also attempt the 2005 version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but it seems even creepier. The things I do for my children!
- The Lorax
The Lorax was my daughter Hailey’s favorite book when she was really little. She loved hearing it and I loved reading it. I didn’t mind reading it over and over again because of the because of the beautiful message of environmental stewardship and the delightful iambic pentameter and rhyme scheme. There are also ample opportunities for silly voices.
I have a nostalgic love for the 1972 animated version of The Lorax. It’s 25-minutes long and a pretty faithful adaptation of the book with a few fun songs. It retains a lot of the original language and it’s easy to knock out quickly. I was very skeptical when the brightly-colored computer-animated version “Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax” came out in 2012. I saw it as a bastardization of an old beloved classic and turned up my nose.
Well, all of that flies out the window when a movie is streaming on Netflix, and before I knew it, Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax became Hailey’s new favorite movie. And guess what? I like it. It’s true. The original story is embedded in a fun new one, and though there is a great deal of silliness and action, there is still fun music and a great message. Anything involving shaving a Barbaloot butt is going to get an A+ rating from my kids.
Get Together and Read!
I’ve found that family reading time has become something we all look forward to everyday. This summer we have expanded it from bedtime reading to an activity that brings us together when the sibling tension gets a little too intense. We love the fun reward of seeing our favorite stories come alive on the screen when we finish and there’s nothing like ending a long day cuddled up on the couch with a big bowl of popcorn and a great movie. Enjoy!