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Fantasy Movies & Games Encouraging Children To Read

We often see on the news or hear from public figures that children are spending too much time in front of screens playing computer games or watching television.

Child-ReadingOf course, with new media, children are never going to read as much as the they did in the past, but new research suggests that films and video games are helping introduce young people to new and more demanding books.

In total, the “What Kids Are Reading” study surveyed 420,000 schoolchildren from across the United Kingdom. As you may expect, the most read books currently are the Harry Potter Novels, the Hunger Games Novels and Tolkien’s The Hobbit.

What is exciting and gratifying to see in this study is, as mentioned above, children desperate to find out how films progress or revisit the world of a movie in an alternative form of media are picking up books that are on average 2.4 years above their reading age.

“The importance of reading for pleasure and its positive impact on literacy standards cannot be overstated. These results demonstrate that it’s all about motivation and challenge,” said Dirk Foch, managing director of educational software company Renaissance Learning, which published the report’s findings. “There may also be some good news for parents who are concerned about the dominance of technology in children’s lives.”

“In an increasingly multimedia world, these findings suggest technology can support literacy, rather than act as a distraction,” he continued. “Children are clearly drawn to characters, concepts and authors they have seen in games, films, TV ads and promotional tie-ups and if this helps widen and challenge their reading choices, then so much the better.”

Other popular books among children were the Lord of the Rings trilogy, fantasy novels Inheritance by Christopher Paolini, The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan, and science fiction novel Divergent by Veronica Roth.

“We cannot assume that children see the film and then want to read the book, because the opposite may be true,” said Professor Topping. “Would books like The Hobbit be on the favorites lists if there were no films? The answer is yes – we know this because The Hobbit was high on the lists before the first film came out. However, since the first film came out The Hobbit has risen up the lists and become even more popular. So films certainly do give a book added value for children.”

Of course, not everyone agrees that this study is something we should all celebrate… Marc Lambert, chief executive of the Scottish Book Trust, questioned the report’s findings. “Just because a child might be led to read the relevant book after having watched the film or played the game does not mean in itself that that film or game, and the hours in front of a screen watching or playing it, does not limit the imagination,” he said.

“This survey tells us very little about the supposed merits of technology; if anything, it is a measure of how deeply commodified children’s lives are and how effective marketing is likely to affect their choices.”

I do agree with Marc’s summary to some extent. Although the study does show that children are picking up books that have high-profile films based upon them, it only significantly ‘support’s literacy’ if children read beyond these few books… If all a child reads throughout their childhood is The Hobbit, The Hunger Games and Harry Potter they are not reading much more than about 11 novels, which isn’t hugely impressive or likely to contribute much to their literary development when you consider the number of films and games they are likely to watch during the same of stage of their lives.

Indeed, with a bit of research using more extensive surveys , I discovered that my concerns are well-founded and something even more worthy of concern becomes apparent. Firstly, in one study I found, it was reported that just a quarter of the children said they read outside of school and about the same number said they did not think their parents cared if they read or not. The piece of information that really hurts and upsets me is that one in five children are embarrassed to be seen reading a book by their friends. As you might expect, young people who ‘enjoyed reading very much’ were four times as likely to read at home and above the level expected for their age compared with those who did not enjoy reading at all… That seems obvious, but what it suggests is that children are being forced to read certain books that don’t appeal to them in school so when they get home they associate reading with being a chore. What I think movies based on novels do, should they encourage a child to pick them up, is realise that not all books are ‘boring’ and require literary analysis.

Child-Reading-NovelMy advice to parents / adults who know young children that have taken an interest to reading novels based on films would be to encourage them to read beyond just books that are based on their favourite films. It seems like this has become a rare opportunity to show them the exciting world of literature. Divergent by Veronica Roth, Graceling by Krisin Cashore, Sabriel by Garth Nix, Mortal Engines by Phillip Reeve, Department 19 by Will Hill, are all fantastic Young Adult series without films based on them (yet)… But why limit a child’s reading to YA? Once children start getting into their teens there is no reason that you shouldn’t pass them books you find appropriate. Books by authors such as Robin Hobb, Brandon Sanderson, Patrick Rothfuss (er… his first book at least), etc seem logical books to hand to children; especially those progressing past their typically expected reading age.

What do you guys think? Parents, what have your experiences been? Have films/games encouraged your children to pick up books?

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2 Comments

  1. Jaedia says:

    Even if movie adaptations are steering what children read, they’re still encouraging them to read which is better than not at all. 🙂 Eventually, it may lead to them branching off to other things which is a wonderful thing.

  2. J M Smith says:

    I think that films leading to reading is generally a very good thing, even if just because a film adaptation is an extended advert for the book e.g. Hunger Games in my case.

    In my personal experience, I was pretty set on a few select book series up to late adolescence e.g. the usual Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Discworld, Artemis Fowl. However, the seeds that were sown in my childhood sprouted into a much more diverse appetite as I passed 20.

    Many children are notoriously fussy about food, films etc, so it’s pretty normal to only have a few favourite books at that age. Perhaps diversification is a more subtle, delayed action that comes with more maturity?

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