Getting Kids to Read the Book When They’ve Already Seen the Movie

Reading a book allows for something that watching a film does not: your own unique version of the story.

Here at RIF, we love to get you talking. We share stories about books and reading, we share essays from talented authors, we post reviews of fabulous books, we muse about all things bookish. We always want to hear from you.

But today, I need to hear from you. I need your advice!

My 10-year-old stepdaughter doesn’t read much for pleasure. She does well with her reading for school, but when she has free time, she rarely picks up a book. We have “family reading time” on the couch every night after dinner, she sees her dad and me reading all the time, but so far, our bookwormishness hasn’t rubbed off.

I want to share the magic of books with her, the way a book is a window to the world, the way a book – unlike a film – invites you to use your imagination to create the story in your mind. The characters and the setting are the way you see them as you read, your own unique version of the story.

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When my stepdaughter and I go to the library, I recommend some of my favorites from when I was her age: The Secret Garden, Anne of Green Gables, The Chronicles of Narnia, A Wrinkle in Time.

Her response to all of them? “I’ve seen the movie, I don’t need to read the book.”

How can I encourage her to experience the book when she “already knows the ending” after seeing the movie? I’m thrilled that Hollywood so often turns to books for inspiration, but it makes it challenging to engage kids with the book when they watch the movie first. Have you experienced this? Any and all advice welcome!

Read more on The Best in ‘Book to Film’, according to RIFers!

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Is it worthwhile to read the book after you’ve seen the film adaptation? Tell us why or why not in a comment!

About Kira Walton

Kira Walton

KIRA WALTON has been stalking books all her life as a college English teacher, bookseller, book club consultant, author, and editor.

  • KimSchlot

    Suggest a book that she hasn’t seen the movie of yet. Then, watch the movie with her after she reads the book. Make sure she realizes all the great parts of the book that wasn’t in the movie. Maybe she’ll give other books a try.

    • Brilliant, done! Thank you Kim. Do you have a film suggestion? (I know, I’m greedy when I get good advice….)

      • KimSchlot

        Hmm… Maybe “Black Beauty,” or the “Diary of Anne Frank?” “Diary of Anne Frank” may be too old for her. Or, what about “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas?”

    • Readicker Lynn

      I did this w/ my son, inadvertently, with Hugo Cabret. The six year old worked through the book. We both went to watch the movie together recently on Netflix and were most disappointed. That said, I’m using Ken Ludwig’s excellent book on teaching your kids Shakespeare, and am supplementing the passages we learn with a bit of Shakespearean movies (starting w/ A Midsummer Night’s Dream). We don’t have decent Shakespearean theatre in our neck of the woods, so I’m teaching my son that tv/movies is a far cry from books/theatre, but that it is useful in tiny doses to see a different view of a story.

  • Lisa Richardson

    My grandson really got more interested in books after he started the paperback Wimpy Kid series. I know there are some similar that are more focused on girls too. From there (after literally memorizing the books), he has moved on to the Redwall series, Lemony Snicket, and many other series, and “chapter” books. He likes to read on the Kindle, but I think even more he likes finding books he can totally immerse himself in. We don’t go to a lot of movies, but most of what we see, he has already read the book if there is one. He still likes Manga, and I think those are often a good way to get kids interested. He also LOVES the library and having his own card, as he likes making his own selections.

  • Anita Maio

    What are her interests? Animals, science, japanese animation, adventure/spy type stories, pirates, etc. Go to the library and get her to pick the books based on what her interests are? Most local libraries have websites and databases. You could do a search of fiction in something that interests her. Then place a hold on those books and leave them laying around where you do your reading together. Maybe a series of books, her age based on a group of young people. For example my daughter used to like the ‘babysitter’s club’ series. I am dating myself here! lol Does she like to bake or cook? Bake/cook something together and get her to read the recipe to you. I hope you and your husband can get her inspired. Reading is one of my greatest pleasures in life.

  • valkyrie911

    Parents don’t like my advice because I never read “children’s” books and never forced my kids to read them. That said, when we go on road trips I play audio books and a lot have been made into movies so my daughter will want to see the film and compare the 2. She hated the adaptation of The Horse Whisperer, but loved Delores Claiborne.
    Show her something like Jane Eyre-there are a million film adaptations of it because it is such a perfect BOOK that no one can get it right as a movie. It’s a classic example of why even the simplest story can’t truly be translated from page to screen without losing it authenticity.

  • Monicalibrarian

    What kind of things is she interested in outside of reading? Sometimes books that feature those subjects can be a way of getting something started. I would also maybe stay away from the more classic books and go towards something more contemporary. (I agree they are good, but they are not “cool”. *sigh*). Maybe try some Judy Blume, Dork Diaries or Wimpy Kid, Beverly Cleary’s Ramona, or even try some of the graphic novels/manga if you local library offers them.

    • I know you’re right about the classics not be “cool” (sigh). She did enjoy The Slumber Party Wars and Ramona, and I always encourage to pick out whatever book she wants to read….

  • Dawn

    I got my son into reading books from which movies have been made by explaining to him and making sure he noticed that books tell you so much more about what the characters are thinking and feeling and so many more things happen in the books than they can put into the movies, it’s like being let in on a secret about the characters, like being further immersed in their world. We watched the first Harry Potter movie first, then read the book, and I kept pointing out that “see, this wasn’t in the movie, and you’d never know if you didn’t read the book.” Now, he’s far more into reading the books than watching the movies.

    • Yes, Dawn, that’s exactly what I’d love to share with my stepdaughter! I read all the Harry Potter books and wish we could do that with the movies, but they scare her! I’ll keep my eye out for other opportunities and talk with her just as you suggest….thank you!

  • Rebekah Crain

    My oldest, who is 10, is an avid reader, but she has constantly surprised me with her disinterest in books I loved when I was her age. I figure with all the titles available for her to read, there is no reason to push books she obviously isn’t interested in- even when I really want to. So many books are made into movies, but if your dd isn’t interested in reading those then give her other choices. There are so many she surely could find something that appeals to her.

  • techeditor

    I can only speak from experience as a little kid. Don’t worry about it. Kids learn from example. Let her figure it out herself so it doesn’t feel like homework.

  • Mippy Foofalina

    I think yes it’s definitely worthwhile. The story can still take you away and it also has some parts that a movie leaves out because of time constraints. I like doing both, though I have only ever seen a few movie adaptations of books that lived up to my imagination…what I pictured in my mind as the author wrote it. 🙂

  • Zen

    I begin reading the book to her. At an interesting or exciting part, I put the book down and walk away. She will pick it up and finish it.

  • Anyanwu Butler

    I suggest you look for a graphic novel version of a classic book. Sure, she can see Truffaut’s version of Fahrenheit 451, or together you can read the graphic novel version Bradbury endorsed. *
    Some people prefer that their reading be even more visual. Many Shakespeare plays are also graphic novels.
    * Oh. Right. She’s 10. There’s a MG book that hits on many of Bradbury’s themes. It’s by Philbrick, I think. The title might be “The Last Book in the World.”

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