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Illiteracy is a global issue. According to Compassion International, as of 2015, there were about 114 million young people across the world who lacked basic reading and writing skills. Research from that same year also found that the number of illiterate adults in the world had reached 745.1 million.
But, illiteracy isn’t just a problem for developing countries. It’s a worrisome issue in the United States as well. Literacy skills of an average American teenager haven’t improved since the 1970s, and more than 30 million adults in the U.S. alone can’t read or write above a third-grade level.
The ramifications of illiteracy are dangerous. It can lead to billions of dollars spent in the healthcare industry, slow business growth, poverty, and more. So, it makes sense to turn toward an avenue almost everyone enjoys to help improve levels of literacy in the United States: watching movies.
Can Movies Help Classroom Literacy?
There are plenty of old stereotypes and cliches surrounding the relationship between movies and books. Many people think that movies are the enemy of literacy. After all, why read the book to write a report on it when you can just watch the film adaptation instead?
But, when a movie comes out that is an adaptation of a book, it often encourages people (especially students) to learn more. Often, a movie will take creative liberties. Some things might be different in a film than they were in the book, leaving people who were interested in that movie to pick up the book and learn more details.
Book adaptations can also create hoards of new fans for different series that are made into movies. Recent examples include things like “The Hunger Games” or “Harry Potter” novels. More than 500 million “Harry Potter” books have been sold around the world, and the films based on the books have made nearly $10 billion globally. So, can movies encourage kids to read? Absolutely!
The Relationship Between Film and Books
Having children watch a film in the classroom isn’t taking away from the importance of reading. In fact, it’s a close relationship that can work well together when it comes to keeping students engaged.
Movies are about more than watching pictures on a screen. If a movie intrigues someone, they’re more likely to want to learn more about the subject of the film, or how it was made. It can spark a lot of creative interest, which leaves a great opening for learning, studying, and reading.
So, while a movie might spark an interest in a student and keep their attention longer than sitting down and reading a book, it doesn’t have to stop with “watching a movie.” In fact, the movie is just the beginning when it comes to the opportunities to improve the way that a student reads, writes, and comprehends.
How to Improve Literacy Through Film
There are many different options when it comes to improving reading and writing skills through film. First, it’s important to understand that behind every great movie is a great script. One unique way to get children interested in reading is to show them a real movie script. Scripts need to be read a certain way since there are lines dedicated to dialogue and lines dedicated to action. This can help to improve comprehension skills as well as imagination.
You can also create specific reading, writing, and open discussion activities based on a certain film your students seemed to enjoy. Ask them to write about a specific scene. What was going on in the scene? How did the music make them feel? What were the characters feeling? Even using images/stills from a film can spark a child’s imagination by asking them questions about it. As a result, they can dive into a book and ask themselves the same questions about what’s happening on each page. Movies are a great way to encourage imaginative thought.
In a classroom setting, it’s also very easy to introduce a book to students, and follow it up by showing the film. It opens up an opportunity to discuss the differences between the book and the film, and you might even get into some debate about which version was better.
The Falsehoods of Film and Literacy
It’s time to break free of the old stereotypes surrounding film and literacy. If recent trends have shown us anything, it’s that movies can spark a greater interest in children to pick up a book and start learning more about their favorite characters and settings.
Movies also provide excellent fuel for discussion, debate, and critical thinking. The more interested a student is in a movie, the more willing they are likely to be in researching more about it on their own.
Finally, it’s important for students and adults alike to understand that movies have never been a threat when it comes to replacing books. No matter how many book adaptations get made into a film, those films are often a great success because people have already fallen in love with the book. Encouraging a relationship between film and books can help to make a positive difference in the alarming illiteracy rates in the U.S. and throughout the world.