external image giftset1vol-cover-rsz.jpg external image HungergamesBookCover.jpg external image twilight_book_cover1.jpg external image hp-sorcerers-stone.jpg

Topic Overview

Over the past decade, books such as Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings have been brought to life on the big screen by top Hollywood studios. The popularity of these movies has, in turn, prompted viewers to read these iconic books. This trend, which has been deemed “The ‘Potter’ Effect” by people like Rick Allen, staff writer at Ocala.com, illustrates the power of the media and popular culture over the lives and education of the young people in America. J.K. Rowling’s novel series Harry Potter and J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy were the first films of the decade to initiate this trend of book-to-movie adaptations sparking an increased popularity in reading. Regardless of the name given to the phenomenon, the fact remains that more and more children and adolescents are reading. According to Rick Allen, in his article at http://www.ocala.com/article/20110714/ARTICLES/110719849, “more than 450 million copies of the seven [Harry Potter] books have been sold” and “the…movies so far rank in the Top 30 grossing films worldwide.” The allure of the films can create new excitement for the books; it is this allure that may prompt young people to investigate. By using pop culture and media that young people can relate to, we can expand their curiosity regarding literature, increase their desire to read, and help them discover and cultivate a love for reading. Book-to-movie adaptations can provide educators with an advantage to presenting literature in the classroom. Students who see the films associated with these novels, are more likely to read them, whether out of pure intrigue or simply out of desire to join the majority of their peers. However, while there are many people who believe that film can give rise to the popularity of reading, there are those who believe that it is harmful to students. The harm they observe stems from the students' lack of desire to put in effort to read the book when they assume that seeing the film is "just as good as reading the book" (Brown 67). Whether or not you believe film can be helpful or harmful in prompting popularity in reading among young people is for the individual to decide. Depending on the answer, this can either be a useful new tool for educators or an obstacle to overcome.

Trend or Issue or Both?

The topic of book-to-movie adaptations and its effect on young people and their education is predominantly a trend; however, it has the potential, as do all trends in the education world, to spark an issue much greater than itself. There are many people who believe that films such as Harry Potter encourage students to read more because of the interest and intrigue sparked by watching the films; but there are those who say that popular culture and film can actually discourage students from reading. They believe once the students have already seen the film, they know the plot and feel no need to re-experience the story in a much longer format. This can give rise to the issue of students not completing reading assignments inside or outside of the classroom, which, in turn, has the potential to affect their grades. The two camps formed here represent two opposing views concerning the effect of film on the popularity of reading.

Camp #1

In his essay, “Media and Adaptation: Moving from Medium to Medium without Getting Hurt,” Nathan Phillips looks at both sides of the debate and, even though he does side with the more optimistic view that book-to-movie adaptations are not harmful to young people, he does emphasize some key elements as to why some believe this aspect of popular culture to be harmful to student reading. The first camp believes that "invasive media…keeps students from reading" (Phillips). According to Phillips, the use of film in classrooms can be construed as invasive and distracting, therefore limiting the student in his/her education concerning that particular novel. Another author, Jean E. Brown, concluded from a survey that some students tend to think that having seen the film "was as good as reading the book" and therefore have no interest in reading the corresponding novel (Brown 67). The use of film, whether popular or lesser-known literary adaptations, can cause students to dismiss the books, and focus only on viewing the films, which we know can, many times, be slightly different from their novel counterpart, as directors and screenwriters take creative liberties.

Camp #2

The second camp, who believe that book-to-movie adaptations are helpful to students, make up the majority of people who have an opinion on this particular trend. These people consider film to be a segue into reading because when a student sees a visual interpretation of a novel, there is an interest that is sparked within the student, making them "eager to see and compare the two treatments of a story that they liked" (Brown 67). In her survey of high school-age adolescents, Brown asserts that, "One eleventh grader reported, 'When I hear about a movie of some book, I get the book and read it and then go see the movie. When I see the movie first, I have all the images from that in my mind and I don't make my own and that takes the fun out of reading.' (Brown 67)." This student, like many others, prefers to read the book first and create their own world and then compare their version with the film adaptation. However, there are those who become intrigued by the plot of the film and, out of a desire to investigate further, venture to read the book and compare the two versions that way. Phillips, as aforementioned, asserts that the pairing of film and text is an effective way for educators to teach the content of the novel and make the learning experience interesting and intriguing in the classroom. While he does reference the differences that are usually present between novels and their corresponding films, such as characters being left out and the "simplifi[cation] of complex material for the mass audience," he does note that there are effective ways to use literature and film in the classroom and that the pairing of the two can greatly increase reading interest among children and adolescents (Phillips). This increase in the interest in books can be seen not only with literature and film used in classrooms, but with popular movies such as Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, Twilight, and The Lord of the Rings. According to Brown's survey, when asked about "influences on their reading preferences and what influenced their choices," and overwhelming number of students cited films as a major influence over their reading choices. Many students "revealed that a film or television adaptation of a book heightened [their] awareness of books and even encouraged students to read a book once they had seen the film adaptation" (Brown 67). Brown even noted in her survey that many students who had read or seen a particular novel or film, thought that the book was better after having been exposed to both mediums.

So where do we go from here?

Both camps offer valid evidence for their respective arguments, and even though they oppose one another there is much to be learned from this particular trend. In an age where media and popular culture are highly pervasive in most settings in life, we, as educators and parents, have to choose whether we believe popular culture, and specifically book-to-movie adaptations to be beneficial to our students education. Are they distracting, pervasive, and unnecessary in the classroom, or do they offer a different perspective for teachers to help convey content, theme, and other literary devices to students who are constantly exposed to media in our extremely technological-saturated world?

Annotated Bibliography

Brown, Jean E (2005). “Film in the Classroom: The Non-Print Connection.” The ALAN Review, Winter 2005. Retrieved from http://scholar.lib.vt.edu/ejournals/ALAN/v32n2/brown.pdf.
  • This article consists of a presentation of a film/literature evaluation form designed by professors and graduate students at Rhode Island College. The evaluation forms included in the article were used to establish the effectiveness of film in the classroom by both teachers and students, by using a rating system (for both teacher and student use) for things such as content, theme, and other literary devices used in the film, and a section exclusively for teachers to explain how the film will be used in conjunction with the book and if there are any special considerations that are needed for viewing the film. In her introduction, before presenting the reader with examples of completed forms, Brown gives the reader an overview of a survey she performed amongst high school students regarding their reading preferences. The results showed that a great number of students’ reading choices were influenced by media, specifically books that had been made into movies or television shows. While there were a few students who deemed reading the book unnecessary after viewing the film, most students were “eager to see and compare the two treatments of a story that they liked,” with most students actually enjoying the book more than its film counterpart (67).

Phillips, Nathan. “Media and Adaptation: Moving From Medium to Medium Without Getting Hurt.” Brigham Young University’s Media Education Database. Retrieved from http://medb.byu.edu/unit/show?id=14
  • In this essay, which is a prelude to a series of lesson plans and projects aimed at incorporating film into English classrooms, Nathan Phillips emphasizes that there are “two camps” concerning the issue of using film in the classroom. There are those who believe film viewing to be “invasive” and distracting from textual literature, and there are those who believe film to be an effective tool in teaching children who are so saturated with media about things such as “narrative, characters, metaphors, symbolism, [and] theme…” Phillips asserts that, while using film as a teaching tool, there is a certain way to accomplish this most effectively. Most teachers incorrectly show the film in its entirety with no input throughout the whole and expect students to compare and contrast the two with really “reading” the film, and whittling their differences down to things such as things being left out of the film and the characters not looking as the students had pictured while reading the book. Teaching film and literature together effectively can lead to teaching students how to “negotiate their way” through the media they are presented with daily, and can also “lead students to discover and become excited about print texts in ways they otherwise might not.” This particular essay, because it does have tips and advice for using film with literature in the classroom, may be helpful to teachers who are struggling with how to incorporate film or even with the decision to incorporate film at all into their classrooms.

Hoeft, Alex (2012, May 09). “Book-to-movie productions popular in Hollywood, with readers, fans: The literary world is Hollywood bound.” Retrieved from http://universe.byu.edu/index.php/2012/05/09/trend-article/
  • This article, which is found on Bringham Young University's online newspaper, explores the popularity of book-to-movie adaptations in Hollywood and the public's fascination with them. While these adaptations have gained popularity in the past decade, the idea of creating movies from books can be traced back to the late 1800s and the silent films of the day. Hoeft offers a "positive spin" on these adaptations, stating that "many folks see this trend as an inspiration to the younger generation - more reading." Hoeft cites that book sales for books such as Harry Potter and The Hunger Games skyrocketed before and after the release of the correlating films. The author argues that while some avid lovers of the books may be hesitant about seeing the movie, in fear that it may bring "'inevitable destruction' to the book name," many viewers love to see their favorite stories brought to life on the big screen, and the trend shows no signs of slowing down.

Hendershot, Megan R. (2007 April). "A Study of the Impact of Children's Book-Based Blockbuster Movies on Library Circulation." Retrieved from http://ils.unc.edu/MSpapers/3261.pdf
  • In this Masters paper by University of North Carolina student Megan R. Hendershort, the idea of book-to-movie adaptations of children's books such as Holes, Harry Potter, and The Chronicles of Narnia being a motivating factor in getting children to read is explored. The author cites that books sales for these particular books increased "presumably due to the extensive marketing" for the films (3). Hendershot argues that film can be used effectively by teachers, parents, and librarians, and while she argues that motivation is important in getting students to read, effort is also required in order "to lead a child to become an avid reader, and intrinsically motivated reader" (6). Hendershot also emphasizes the importance of developing a "taste" for reading in children to complement their intrinsic motivation, that in conjunction with their reading interests can make for a lifelong lover of books. (7).The article also equally explores why students don't read, whether it be related to the dangers of book-to-movie adaptations citing that these films can provide "instant gratification of a great story with the least amount of effort" (10). The study that makes up the second half of the paper may be beneficial to teachers, parents, and librarians in helping them develop a way to incorporate film in way that encourages students to read and enjoy reading.

"Does Anyone Read Anymore? Be Surprised!" (2012 April 23). Retrieved from http://www.cleancutmedia.com/books/does-anyone-read-books-anymore-be-surprised
  • This article from Clean Cut Media explores the statistical data concerning the popularity of reading in today's world. It provides statistics about how many people are reading now versus how many people were reading fifty years ago. It also explores the reasons for why more people are reading today, citing reasons such as ease of access to books with things such as e-readers/online material, popularity of book-to-movie adaptations sparking interest, or whether there are simply more books in print than there were 50 years ago. This article, while a popular and not scholarly source, can provide the reader with a quick insight concerning reading and its popularity in this ever-expanding technological world.

Proposal Addressing this Issue: