In my recent review of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, I mentioned how my childhood experience with the book was tainted by the 1979 animated movie. The first time I read it, I may have been reading the words, but the movie was playing in my head. Even as an adult reading it to my kids, I couldn't escape mental scenes from that darn movie.
Hoping to guard against that, I read the book to my boys first, and I didn't even mention the existence of a movie. I wanted them to use their own imaginations for Peter, Edmund, Susan, and Lucy. For Mr. Tumnus, the Beavers, and Father Christmas. For the White Witch. I didn't want that to be colored by someone else's interpretation.
After we were done with the book, I bought the audio dramatization. They listened to it at least a dozen times. It was maybe a little closer to the movie but still gave them plenty of room for their own ideas and imaginings.
Somehow though, they found out about the movie. (They always seem to know when there's a movie.) Every time we went to the library, Maxwell checked the "L's" for it, but I wasn't quite ready to relinquish their imaginations to Hollywood, so I did little to help him out.
Finally though, after several more weeks had passed, I figured they'd probably cemented their own pictures in their brains and we could give it a try. I put it on hold (and then Mike reminded me that we actually own it--which I guess is proof of how often we watch it).
My boys were so excited. And then Maxwell, with a twinge of awe in his voice, said something like: "So this is the real story."
I jumped in so fast, he didn't have time to say anything else: "Hold it. The book is the real story. Not the movie. The book came first. The movie is just one person's [actually, many people's . . . ] interpretation of the story. The way you pictured it when I read it to you is just as real as the movie."
I can see why he made such a mistake: The book is just words on a page. The movie is made up of real people, an incredible location, and live action. Of course the movie looks more real. But it is that very authenticity that makes it so deceptive and makes it so that kids no longer feel the need to use their imaginations.
And without imagination, the real things (even the making of non-real movies) will cease to happen. Imagination is the key to all our ambitions and hopes and dreams.
How do you preserve your kids' imaginations? Do you prefer reading the book or seeing the movie first?
P.S. And, completely unrelated, here's a little something extra for your Friday. I've told you before how much I love The Read-Aloud Revival podcast with Sarah Mackenzie, but the last two episodes have been especially fun because my kids shared their favorite books in her "Let the Kids Speak" segment. Max and Bradley can be heard in Episode 23 at 52:30, and Aaron is on Episode 24 at 22:10.