Books-to-Movies: activities for the whole family

Imagine creating your own movie set design, costumes, and soundtracks based on your favorite children’s books! It can be done simply by tapping the energy and creativity of your own family. The holiday season is a great time to share some extra time with your family, and what better way to spend that time, than by reading and discussing a delightful book together.

Wizard of OzNot long ago I was at the movies with my husband, who is very generous in that he doesn’t mind accompanying me to watch films based on children’s books.  Of course, I can hardly say no when he asks me to return the favour when he wants to catch the newest action flick. While waiting for the main event to begin, we dutifully watched the numerous trailers advertising the soon to be released films; I thought to myself that someone in Hollywood must have a library card. Almost all of the trailers that were shown had a tie-in to a children’s or young adult book. Impressed as I am that children’s literature is making it to the big screen, I do realize that this is not a new concept. I myself grew up watching movies based on children’s literature such as Mary Poppins, and The Wizard of Oz, along with the occasional Disney feature based on fairy tales. I was mesmerized by these productions in their full colour splendor, and definitely aware that these spectacular visions came from the pages of a book.

Today, the release of a new film occurs much more often than in the 60’s (now I’ve dated myself). Excitement over a new release is escalated as all of the kids seem to know which book is going to become a movie. I have found that the children who participate in our library programs that are based on popular titles know the books inside and out. They know every detail about each of the characters, they can quote key speeches from the text, and they can answer all of the questions in the trivia games. Most of these children have a vision as to what they will expect from the film that was created based on their favorite books. And sometimes they are disappointed, as their vision is different from that of the director and the resulting program.

MED0001103But you can change all of that by gathering your family to read a story together. Continue the benefits of this family time to discuss the book; whether or not you liked all of the characters, would you have come to the same conclusion, in the same way? Also take the time to imagine possible sets, costuming and background noise. Bring out some paper and coloured pencils or crayons and draw out some of your brilliant ideas.

Family Reading TogetherWhat are the benefits of this activity? Well, besides the valuable time that you are spending together with your family, everybody gets a chance to use their imaginations, to develop and express opinions, to learn new vocabulary, and to get creative. To help in developing reading skills, everyone can take a turn in reading the book with respect to reading levels. Reading together is also a great idea for reluctant readers as they will learn about and enjoy the magic of books in a comforting environment. This is a family activity that everyone can share in.

Family Watching Television TogetherAs a treat, make a point of borrowing a copy of the movie version of the book that you have shared from your local library branch. Make it a special evening, call it family film night, have some pizza or home-popped popcorn, or whatever works for you. You can continue the conversation by comparing the movie to your own conversations and drawings.

Here are some great ideas to get you imaginations going. These books and movies are both fun to read and fun to watch; some are classics, and some are contemporary titles. Enjoy!

The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling
Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
The Invention of Hugo Cabret: a novel in words and pictures by Brian Selznick
Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling (all of them)
Percy Jackson and the Olympians: the Lightning Thief & Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan
Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney
Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine


Tamara Heads the Children’s and Teen Section at Millennium Library.

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