There was a point in time for me when Christmas TV had morphed into a disappointment of repetitive re-runs for children. However over the last few years this has been changing with many more new adaptations of children’s books appearing on our lounge screens; The Gruffalo and Mr Stink being fabulous examples and the good news is that it looks set to explode with the BBC’s recent partnership with The Reading Agency, Book Trust, National Literacy Trust, Society of Chief Librarians and The Scottish Library Information Council; who together are driving the “Get Reading Today” campaign. These are all major influencers in the book world so we could be in for some magical delights… or are we?
At first glance the idea of showing children TV programmes to encourage them to read more books sounds like an oxymoron. Some might say we are losing sight of what the essence of a book means to the literary lovers amongst us. I know I always try and impress on my children to “read the book before you see the film.” I’m not always one hundred percent successful with this but I try and I will persist to try because I want my children to develop their own inner pictures of imagination. Once you’ve seen a film it’s incredibly hard to erase those particular pictures and characters out of your mind. I want my children to imagine and think for themselves and not to be told what to imagine and think.
So why are so many trusted literary supporters encouraging TV adaptations? Where is the value in a screen production? The value comes from sustaining the life of the story within a book. Films are about portraying an interpretation, a message, a visual example of someone’s imagination in motion. Reading a book first and then seeing the film can be hugely rewarding as it provokes you to question, compare and marvel at the characters coming to life but there are also times when seeing a film first can encourage reading too. A film can ignite a fascination in a book which was previously of no interest. It can help children to look at the story on a whole new level and bring previously unnoticed stories to their attention. For children who struggle to imagine inside their heads, a film can present ideas of how to imagine but most of all it will bring another story into their world that helps them to learn and grow. I enjoy how reading a book allows my mind to run free but as a writer, for me it is also about how to tell a good a story; stories which I hope one day will be experienced, heard and lovingly remembered. The life of a story is bigger than any book so adapting a story through different mediums such as TV can only be a good thing as it offers both children and adults the opportunity to enjoy the story on their own terms in an artistic medium that they love.
So watch out this Christmas for Stick Man by Julia Donaldson and Billionaire Boy by David Walliams coming to BBC, Countdown to Britain’s Favourite Children’s Books on Channel 4 presented by David Walliams and Fungus and the Bogeyman by Raymond Briggs on Sky. However let’s not forget that the BBC campaign is so much more than screen adaptations. Read this article, “BBC launches year-long campaign to get the nation reading” to see the documentaries, interviews and live events planned on both BBC radio and television all aimed at encouraging reading.