How important is reading??? This blog isn't long enough to truly capture all the wonderful benefits of developing strong reading skills and habits. Obviously, once you learn to read, a whole world opens up to you of facts, thoughts and imagined ideas that you previously had limited access to. Nowadays, people talk about the information highway and the beauty of digitized images available to us in any number of electronic media sources. However, have you ever noticed how often those incredible images began with the inspiration that came from a great book?
It often pains me to see yet another classic story being produced on the big screen, knowing full well that once my little friends have seen it in that format, they are less likely to actually read the full novel upon which the screenplay was based. Some will, but many more will not.
I have been encouraged lately by a trend I've noticed in adults who recognize that many great movies are based on interpretations of novels. These discriminating readers will make it a point to consume the book before entering the movie theatre to see the film version. This allows them to enjoy the full scope of the story and the complexities of the characters that the author so painstakingly created, before viewing the Hollywood version, that, no matter how well done, is still a stripped down, shorter version of the original work. I saw it over and over again this summer with the release of The Help. Everywhere I went I saw adults scrambling to purchase and read this exceptional novel before enjoying the film version at their local theatre. People were talking about it at the water cooler, in bookstores, on Facebook, on airplanes and buses -- even on beaches and beside pools. The movie was fantastic, and I fully expect it to win many awards, but the book was better! Try as they might, screenwriters cannot possibly cram as much information into a 2 hour movie as an author can develop in a full length novel.
The same is true of children's stories and novels. Ask a fan of the Harry Potter series or any number of other great books like Stuart Little or The Cat in the Hat. Sometimes the movie version is a "faithful portrayal" of the characters and major plot lines, but often it is a new story "based on" the original story. If it's a "faithful portrayal" there is opportunity for comparison and critical dialogue, valuing the artistry rendered to a new media form to enhance or support the author's creation. However, if the movie (or cartoon or t.v. show) is "based on" the original story, it's often a new work altogether, intended to entertain the modern audience of both adult and child, possibly with more adult humour than is appropriate for children and story lines that are quite different than anything the author ever would have considered.
Nothing can replace a good book. By the same token, nothing can replace the joy of sharing great books. There is a bond that forms between people who share the love reading. You can see it in the eyes of a child as they sit on your lap or cuddled up beside you when you read with them. You can see it in a classroom as children sit spell-bound, waiting for the teacher to turn the page so they can see what happens next and how a character will solve a unique problem. You can see it out in public, when perfect strangers discover that they are interested in the same book and strike up an animated conversation about it.
Here's a book recommendation for you! I learned about it through my cousin's husband who responded to a Facebook posting about a month ago when several friends started sharing titles of books they'd been enjoying. The book is called The Reading Promise, by Alice Ozma. It's the true story of a nine-year old girl (the author) who enjoys reading books with her father so much that they enter into a little challenge to see if they can hold to a daily commitment to read together for at least 10 minutes each day, for 100 days. They call it their "reading streak", and once they accomplish their first 100 days, they recommit to try for 1000! The time that they spend together becomes so important to them, for so many reasons, that they keep the streak going until Alice goes off to college. By that point they have faithfully kept the reading promise to each other for 3,212 days! You can read about it at thereadingpromise.com and even buy it on line, if you wish. I downloaded it onto my Kobo and am currently reading it in my spare time. I hope it will inspire you to make a reading promise of your own!