Parenting Hack: Read Books With Accompanying Movies

I love reading books aloud to my children. It’s something I value and one of the few areas of parenting where I feel almost zero guilt. Whenever I hear some affirmation of the benefits of reading to children, I get a swell of contentment. They don’t eat organic produce, they definitely don’t floss enough, and I raise my voice more than I should.

But reading? I’ve got that covered.

We’ve read a lot of books over the years, but our recent selections have had a common theme – they all have accompanying movies.

I don’t read through books as quickly as I used to – we’re busier, John’s not traveling much (pre-COVID, I would read to the kids at breakfast, supper and bedtime), but it’s been such a treat to read each of these books knowing we’re going to supplement the experience with a movie.

Books we’ve read in the last 18 months that have a movie/tv SHOW

  • Heidi: loved, loved, loved the book; so far we’ve only watched the 1930’s Shirley Temple version, but we plan to watch some of the newer iterations as well.
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: A great book; the movie was so-so.
  • The Fantastic Mr. Fox: LOVED the book, but I’m not a fan of the movie.
  • Matilda: Solid book, but I didn’t love the movie (the kids did though).
  • James and the Giant Peach: Meh about both.
  • The BFG: Better than James and the Giant Peach, but not my favourite. This is a rare case where I think the movie was better than the book.
  • Harry Potter: I grew up reading and loving these books, but I’m not a fan of the movies. Abby read all the books, but Levi only read the first two and has only seen some of the movies. I find they get really dark (literally and figureatively). The kids love the books and the movies. Abby listens to Harry Potter audiobooks daily.
  • Pollyanna: Good book; I didn’t actually watch this movie with the kids!
  • The Swiss Family Robinson: My all-time favourite book from childhood; we only watched the movie, but there are some well-reviewed serialized versions as well.
  • Charlotte’s Web: It’s such a classic, but definitely not my favourite.
  • Little House on the Prairie: Another classic series (and we read all of them). I love some of the books and find others a very hard slog. We’ve only watched a few of the made-for-TV specials, not any of the main show.
  • The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe: The kids actually listened to this via audio-book (a slight cheat on my part?) – they’ve watched, and really enjoyed, all the movies. I find Tilda Swinton terrifying in any movie setting, and she’s a great White Witch.
  • The Wizard of Oz: Really fantastic book. Great movie.

There are a lot more book/movie combos we haven’t tackled; I’m not sure how much longer we’ll keep up this trend, but for now it’s really working.

After we finish up Anne of Green Gables (and assuming we don’t go on to Book #2), I’d like to read Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol as we near the Christmas season. I absolutely loved listening to Gretchen Rubin’s audio version of this last year and am itching to read it out loud to the kids. And I’ve never watched anything other than Mickey’s Christmas Carol, so I am overdue for an acclaimed movie adaptation of this Christmas classic!

Other thoughts:

  • Little Women
  • Beverly Cleary novels (various)
  • All Creatures Great and Small (or others by James Herriot)
  • Stuart Little
  • Peter Pan
  • The Secret Garden
  • Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
  • Because of Winn-Dixie
  • The Lord of the Rings trilogy (I know someone who read this to her kids when they were about my kiddos current ages; I love these books, but feels a bit dense and dark for their age category…and I’m not ready for them to watch screen-adpated Orcs at this point. Can you say nightmares?!)
  • A Wrinkle in Time

Any suggestions of other combos to try?

Header photo by GR Stocks on Unsplash

24 thoughts on “Parenting Hack: Read Books With Accompanying Movies”

  1. It is so fascinating how different the books we grow up with are in different countries. I have heard and even read & seen a few you mention here but here in Europe Roald Dahl is hardly know. Only because of the movies maybe. The books I grew up with are from Ottfried Preussler ( I googled his books are available in English), Astrid Lindgren and Michael Ende. I love that you read so much to your children (I am wondering how old they are). I think reading in a young age is the most important thing. That is why all my godchildren will always get a book for Christmas. I do not care if they want something else. Its a book and you can count on it. HA!

  2. Oh, books- I love books so much! All the kids books you’ve mentioned are so good. I read to my kids so much when they were little, but neither one of them is a big reader now (which kills me.). One thing my son (and I) loved were the Harry Potter books, and we both just reread them. I agree that starting with the fourth book they get dark- not meant for young children.
    Even though my daughter doesn’t read much now, she still remembers the “Ramona” series by Beverly Cleary that we read when she was little. Those books are SO GOOD! We still quote them to each other. And just the other day she mentioned something from Alice and Wonderland, which made me happy- so she was paying attention after all!
    The only movies we paired with books were the Harry Potters- and once again, this was when my son got a bit older.

    1. I think Abby has read all the Ramona books on her own, but I should start reading them out loud to both kids. I think there are some movies, too?

      Abby just finished the final Harry Potter movie, watched in snippets when her brother was otherwise occupied. I don’t need to rewatch them, but I’ll definitely re-read them again in the not-so-distant future!

      And Alice in Wonderland is definitely on the list.

      So many books, not enough time. I may have to keep reading at the table until they head off to college to fit them all in?! I love reading children’s lit, so it really is a treat for me.

  3. The Lemony Snicket/Series of Unfortunate Events books are big favorites of my daughter, and we have all been watching the TV series together as a family. Highly recommend!

    Harriet the Spy is one book that I keep trying to get my daughter into — so far she has resisted, but I know there’s a movie with that one.

    And I remember loving the book War With Grandpa, and I’ve heard there’s a very cute movie version as well.

    1. I have always wanted to read the Lemony Snicket books but they had fallen off my radar! These are going on the 2022 To-Read list. I also don’t think I mentioned in the blog post that Abby has been LOVING the Mysterious Benedict Society books (she has read them all multiple times). I really enjoyed the first one, never really got into the second one, and haven’t bothered to read beyond that. And both kids enjoyed the Disney+ series of The Mysterious Benedict Society.

      I’ve never even heard of War with Grandpa! Will have to check that out, too!

  4. you are scoring 10/10 on that front definitely. I’m usually too tired by 7pm and needs some slow down myself before I go to bed. so usually I read my book and the girls either read by themselves and finishing homework. it’s a quiet setting and we all wind down. but I do love the idea reading books together with them and watch a movie later. maybe we can do it separately? hhehehe… how lazy.

    1. My favourite time to read is definitely around the table. I usually don’t eat breakfast, so we do a lot of reading while they eat in the morning before heading off to school. I think it’s a great way to start the day. We do still read at bedtime, but they stay up so much later now (and I’m so tired!), that we do most of our reading around the table, oddly enough…

      1. How old are your kids again? Mine are at the age that they will still let me read to them, but it is definitely a much rarer occasion now…. my oldest is 13! But he still likes it. We just don’t make it happen much anymore since they read so much on their own. But I’m feeling this huge push to do it because I’m sure within about another year or so it would be “weird” to sit and have his mom read to him! I feel sad that this chapter may be coming to an end. (haha, like my pun?). Or maybe it doesn’t have to! I don’t know. I guess we’ll see. We used to read every single night together when they were little, for years! If we get into a really good novel, they get hooked and then do like to do it. Maybe I’ll find a good one that we can read in December by the fire together. Last winter we read one called Winterfrost – which takes place in Denmark! Maybe you should check that one out.

        1. They’re 7 and almost 11. Pretty perfect ages for reading, I think? Though I was commenting earlier, both kids tend to be a bit lazy about reading to themselves – maybe I’ve overdone it? Levi’s still learning, of course, but unless Abby is really into a series (like she was with Harry Potter + Mysterious Benedict society), she’d rather do something creative in her room before bed. When I was her age I just devoured books (mostly Nancy Drew – our neighbour owned the COMPLETE series and I would go borrow a bag full at a time and read them back to back. I read through the series time after time).

          Ohhh – a book about winter that involves my beloved Denmark. How very hygge, especially if I read it by candelight at the supper table with the living room fireplace roaring in the background? Sounds like a winner…

  5. Oh, I loved reading with my kids when they were young! I liked Dr. Seuss as a kid, but I LOVED his books as an adult…all the crazy rhymes and words were pure genius. Some of his books have had movies, which were good…but the books themselves were the crown jewels.

    1. One of my favourite things is reading children’s picture books. We come home with 20-30 new books every week from the library. We actually just finished reading a darling Christmas book tonight at bedtime.

      And Dr. Seuss, well he is just top of the class. How The Grinch Stole Christmas! is one of my favourite picture books ever and both the original (1966) and 2018 film versions are some of my favourite things to watch each holiday season.

  6. The newest Little Women (I think 2019) is the closest thing to the book you could imagine. It is SO good. It really portrays the March girls as sisters, and Laura Dern as Marmee is really something. There is a scene where she walks into the house and really collects herself before she greets the girls, and it’s SO motherhood. Also, the house where the Hummels live is exactly what you might imagine a very poor family living in, back in the Civil War time. That said, I also really love the 90s version of the movie, but it’s just more of a comfort-feel-good movie for me.

    I love those old books! What fun. I miss reading to my kids.

    1. I’ve been meaning to watch the most recent movie ever since it was released – I’m so glad to hear it’s a wonderful adaptation.

      I own an old copy of Little Women, and this may be our Jan 2020 launch book! I haven’t re-read the book in years, and I think it will be pure delight to revisit all those characters again.

  7. I can’t wait for my kids to be old enough to read chapter books/longer books. We are in the picture and board book phase over here. But Amazon has a series based on the If You Give a Mouse a Cookie books. Our toddler LOVES that show and it’s really cute/well done. He is the most sensitive little guy, though, so we have yet to watch movies with him. When I’ve tried to watch movies with him, we have to turn them off because he gets scared. I can’t remember what all we’ve tried but one that I can remember is the Creuds (probably mispelling that). Another friend’s son loved it so I thought it would be fine. But nope. So we will see if that continues to be an issue as he gets older!

    I’m totally with you on being great about reading to my kids, although I feel bad that we’ve read less to Will than we did to Paul. He gets a lot of “2nd hand reading.” Though and gets books at bedtime/before naps and a few other ones during the day. But I feel like he doesn’t love books as much as Paul did at this age. But Paul might have been an outlier? He is just sooo into books and has been from a very young age. Will enjoys his nap and bedtime books and has learned how to turn the page which is super cute. So I know he enjoys being read to. He’s just super easily distracted which is probably very typical for an 11m baby!

    1. Levi didn’t really get “into” reading until he was much older (where Abby has always loved it).

      My kids have loved the Give a Mouse books and I didn’t know they had made a video series (we also love the Julia Donaldson books, especially The Gruffalo, and the kids loved the video version of that on Amazon). That’s so cute that Will is turning the pages; such a fun stage!

      I will say that neither of my kids loves reading independently (unless they’re really into something, like Abby was with Harry Potter). They prefer to listen to audiobooks or have me read aloud, which makes me think maybe I’ve overdone the reading out loud to them? I was devouring books on my own at their age, but I feel like my parents weren’t really reading to me at this stage.

      I suspect the movie you’re thinking of is The Croods? If so, my kids did love it. I do think they have a very high tolerance for scary things. I don’t understand it. They don’t even flinch at things I find scary. No nightmares. No anxiety. I used to bury my head in couch pillows or plug my ears and ask my parents to tell me when something was over.

      1. The Croods movies are so funny!!! We love those!

        Soooo many great books/movies mentioned on your list! I love watching older/ “classic” movies from my childhood with the kids, even if not necessarily based on books. (Things like the original Parent Trap, definitely Wizard of Oz, Harry and the Hendersons (have you ever seen that one?).

        One we watched recently based on a book though was the newest version of Roald Dahl’s The Witches, the one that came out in 2020. There are a couple older versions, too I think. OMG I loved this. It’s with Anne Hathaway and Octavia Spencer…so good! Definitely has a few “scary”-ish scenes so they’d probably extra like it! Haha.

        I read Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol last December! It was good. 🙂 I love to see the play version of that in the theater- our local downtown theater performs it every year, and we have been to see it several times. I’ve never been a huge fan of any movie versions of it, though.

        1. Never heard of Harry and the Hendersons! I have GOT to watch The Parent Trap/It Takes Two again.

          Levi’s Grade Primary teacher read them The Witches last year (it was the sweetest thing; they were mid-way through the book when we went into a month of lockdown in May. She set up a little reading nook in her classroom and would record herself reading a chapter each day and then share it with the class. It was the ONLY part of online learning he enjoyed. And, as a bonus, Abby could also join in on the fun. It gave me 15-30 minutes to breath during the day, and felt nice to have someone else read to them for a change, especially when they were home 24/7. I really should re-read it to the kids since I missed a lot of it (and Abby missed the last bit because school started back up in-person).

          I was shocked by how much I loved A Christmas Carol. It sparked a January/February blitz of classic Dicken’s work (for me, not the kids – I think they would draw the line at A Tale of Two Cities). But some of my affection may have come from the fact I just really enjoyed hearing Gretchen Rubin narrate it – since I’m so used to hearing her talk in the context of her podcasts it just felt so familiar and fun.

  8. The best thing about this is that they never get too old! We have a family tradition of having a book/movie “Summer Fiction Festival” and have gone from reading/watching Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings to Stephen King, Jane Austen, and more adult themes. My sons are in their 20’s now and it’s still a thing! (although sometimes they go see the movies with their friends and we just talk about it at the next family dinner.

    1. How fun! This is a great idea and I love the name “festival” – it feels so whimsical, yet sophisticated.

      A friend of mine started a book club with her daughters over the summer and I thought that just sounded like the epitome of reading fun.

      As much as I love books, I’ve never been part of a book club, mostly because of the time commitment, but it is appealing to think through doing something internally.

  9. These are some great combos that are going on my TBR/ TBW list! Some others I’ve enjoyed (with and without my kids…):
    Freaky Friday! I know most people don’t know it’s a book, but the book is quite good.
    And Princess Diaries.
    How to Train Your Dragon.
    And Pride and Prejudice. But I admit that I let my nine year old watch the mini series without reading the book because I couldn’t resist. (I mean for that matter, all the Jane Austen… I love Jane Eyre, though I’m not ready to explain that one to my kids)
    We also just finished reading Holes this year and my nine year old wants to see the movie.
    We listened to the Anne of Green Gables audiobook and then watched the CBC mini series that I grew up with. Sooooo good!
    The Little Princess Movie from 1995 was also really great, but very different from the movie.
    Oh also – The Little Prince. There’s a fabulous opera version of it that we watch every Christmas.

    1. I LOVE the Pride and Prejudice miniseries. I never even thought of that combo, but classic. I love Jane Eyre, but have never seen any of the film adaptations. I did read Great Expectations last year but think it’s a bit much for either kiddo at this point.

      Abby did Holes in Grade 4, and I think someone mentioned liking the movie even better than the book.

      Once we finish Anne of Green Gables we’re going to watch the CBC movies (so classic); hopefully we’ll make it over to PEI next summer, too, and ride their fascination with Anne a bit further! I also want to introduce them to Road to Avonlea, which was one of my favourite shows growing up.

      So many great ideas here and, you’re right – I had no idea Freaky Friday was also a book!

  10. If you can get kids hooked on books at a young age, it will be a love affair for a lifetime. I love that you couple the books with movies – do you compare and discuss the adaptations?

    1. Our discussions don’t get very deep at this point, but the kids do LOVE to discuss where the book/movie plotline diverge. They get pretty grumpy when the movie doesn’t stay true to the book, and it’s hilarious to hear them list all the places the movie “got it wrong.”

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