Kids are introduced to reading to learn how to speak and write at an early age. When they get older, reading becomes a process of how well you remember the story to pass a test instead of an interesting dialogue for interpretation. Growing up, I did not mind the tests if it meant exploring the many meanings found in these pages. I did however long just to read for my own education and enjoyment. Along the way were six movies that sparked my imagination further into the joys of reading.
1. "The Pagemaster" (1994)
This is one of the earliest movies I saw growing up and it definitely consumed my attention. It had fantastic imagery and made reading less of a chore and more of an adventure. With the likes of Macaulay Culkin (or his new legal name, Macaulay Macaulay Culkin Culkin) and Christopher Lloyd, the childhood scale reached a new nostalgic height. The beginning of this film always stood out to me, where Culkin's character is in his tree house. I only knew one kid from middle school who had a tree house and I always wanted to have one of my own. This and the famous melting paint seen in the library; the stuff of horror and movie magic!
2. "Beauty and the Beast" (1991)Beauty and the Beast (1991) Phone Wallpaper
Belle was a girl who read, which surprised me as a kid. Not because of a "girls have cooties" criticism but because she was avid for it. Looking back at the film now, it is wildly poetic and filled with romance. The rose in the jar symbolized the love the Beast has yet to give and receive and the fallen petals are the time passing him by without love. The Beast is the jar and the withering rose is his heart. There are allusions to Frankenstein as well. This Disney film had the best of both worlds and gave me my first glimpse into metaphors.
3. "The Witches" (1990)
In the second grade, Mrs. Walters read us a chapter from Roald Dahl's "The Witches" every day after lunch. After the book was finished, we watched the film it was based on. Practical effects and makeup, hyperbolic acting, and the threat of witches hiding in plain sight made eight-year-old me impressed and inspired. She introduced me to one of my favorite authors and pretty soon I was reading Dahl's "George's Marvelous Medicine," "The Magic Finger," "The Twits," "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," and "Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator."
4. "James and the Giant Peach" (1996)
Another from a tale by Roald Dahl. I saw the movie before I knew it was a book, but it did not fail to capture my wonder. A young boy who lives with not one but two aggressive and overbearing aunts that shelter him and his dreams of seeing the world. The song "My Name Is James" was the most memorable moment for me. It gave me that feeling of wanting to know more than just my backyard as a kid, and we all get that wanderlust every now and then. It reminded me that I could see the world in the books I read, so I kept reading.
5. "Matilda" (1996)
It goes without saying that Roald Dahl impacted my childhood. It is a great identity-driven piece and coming-of-age story that I could relate to so much and I did not even know it. To be self-aware of certain things, but not others gave me solace and solidarity all at once, and with both, strength. Matilda would have been my playground girlfriend for sure.
6. "Big Fat Liar" (2002)
Frankie Muniz and Amanda Bynes were a powerhouse action and comedy duo. Add Paul Giamatti as an angry and hilarious third wheel, and you get a Disney Channel classic TV movie. This film really was more about writing than reading but it is still the same coin we are dealing with here. Ideas are important, can be appreciated and shared, but stolen. It made me protective of what I wrote and I only shared with others in person rather than online. It makes what we read more honest if we can see each other's feelings readily.
Thanks to these movies, books became longer movies for me.