Are there really two sides to this debate? Book first!
Whenever possible, I read the book with my kids before we see the movie adaptation.
Books are longer and more detailed. Movies have to leave out characters, scenes, sometimes whole subplots. Books can reveal a character’s thoughts and feelings. Movies can only show a character’s external reactions.
Reading the book first adds to the fun of the movie for my kids. They can’t resist whispering their comments. They remark on whether or not the characters look the way they imagined them. They predict what scene is coming next and note any changes in the plot. Knowing the ending in advance doesn’t seem to spoil the movie for them at all.
On the other hand, seeing the movie first can take the fun out of reading the book. Friends tell me that seeing the Harry Potter movies inspired their kids to read the books. I can believe that. But Harry Potter must be the exception. I can’t think of any book my kids picked up after seeing the movie version.
If you’re looking for a summer read-aloud/movie combination, here are a few recommendations:
- Andy Weir’s The Martian is not a kids’ book (and it contains some profanity), but older kids would enjoy it. Blaine did. It’s a sci-fi thriller that kept me reading late into the night and made me laugh out loud. And the movie is excellent too.
- Even if you’ve already seen The Hobbit movie trilogy, it’s worth reading the classic fantasy novel that J.R.R. Tolkien wrote for his own kids in the 1930s. Mark read it aloud to the whole family years ago, and I intend to read it again to Larrabee. Baggins, Gandalf, Gollum. Precious!
- Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games trilogy is a bit dark for young kids, but Blaine and I devoured it. It has an intriguing heroine and a compelling plot. The four movies are good fun too.
- Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card is another good choice for older kids. Blaine and I read it together before seeing the movie version. I didn’t love the rest of series, but I like this one a lot.