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How Movies and Reading Can Play Nicely Together

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Nov 11, 2014

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When I first decided to limit my daughter’s TV time, my reasons stemmed mainly from wanting her to learn to enjoy other activities (playing outdoors, games and puzzles, and mainly, reading). Then, when my daughter had just turned 5, we were at a school picnic and “Harry Potter and the Philospher’s Stone” was playing. My daughter desperately wanted to see it, and I (desperately trying to win this battle while still keeping calm because… we were at a school picnic) explained that I would read her the book and then she could see the movie. That night she insisted we begin.

Over the next nine months of bedtime reading, we managed to get through the entire Harry Potter series. Every time we finished a book we would go out together and buy the DVD, order pizza, make popcorn, gather all the junk food and make an event of watching the movie. I had only planned on reading through the first book, but she insisted on continuing. Some concepts went over her head, and a LOT of explanations were required, (and preparatory explanations for the sad or scary parts), but there were unexpected pay-offs to the process as well. My daughter learnt that sticking with a book, even through a boring or difficult part, can be rewarding. And we discussed how books are different than movies as everyone imagines a book slightly differently. (“You imagine Lucius Malfoy to have brown eyes, but I imagine that his eyes are blue, and we are both correct! How cool!”) We ended up repeating this process several times with movies like, “Winnie the Pooh” and “The Hobbit.”

Over the next few years, as she became an independent reader, I noticed that my daughter enjoyed the reverse of this process as well (reading a book after she had seen the film). I would often download a simple Disney Book of the Film onto her Kindle and she would spend an afternoon reading the story of a favorite film (“Frozen,” “The Jungle Book,” “Finding Nemo,” “Alvin and the Chipmunks,” and of course, Harry Potter were all favorites). This helped her confidence in reading independently as she knew the plot and characters and could often read longer chapter books all by herself.

And now, as an established independent reader, if her interest is piqued by a movie, she will seek out more challenging books and confidently tackle them. A few years ago she read through the entire How To Train Your Dragon series after having watched the first film (the movie is only loosely based on the books). And recently she read Enders Game (with some explanations) after having watched the film.

So, perhaps the next time your child really wants to see a movie, sit down and read the book with them together beforehand. Have a little discussion about how the book differs from the movie, which they liked better. Or for older kids, stock up on books of their favorite movies. It just might buy you a few hours of alone time while your child is….reading!

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Written By Aruna Bewtra

Aruna Bewtra grew up in the U.S. and attended Jefferson Medical College. She now lives in Mumbai with her family and works as chauffeur, chef, and personal assistant to her 8 year old.

  1. Poonkodi

    Awesome Idea . Can’t wait to try out. I love and grew up with books. My kids screen fixation unsettles me

  2. Marguerite Theophil

    I love how you worked WITH the need of your little girl for watching the movie and helping her become an independent reader. Many ‘grown-ups’ grumble about children not reading enough these days, but either don’t read themselves or don’t spend time inviting young people into the enriching world of books. As a retired person, I help set up small libraries for students in places like Ladakh, and seeing children – and teachers – take to enjoying a book is a great reward! I’m sharing your piece with several parents. Thank you, Aruna.
    Marguerite Theophil

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