Bookworms and reluctant readers, unite!
When I was a middle-school English teacher in South Central Los Angeles, I regularly searched for books and stories that would connect with my students, who often felt the readings in their textbooks were not only boring but unrelatable. Wilson Rawls’ classic “Where the Red Fern Grows” couldn’t keep their attention, but the stories in Sharon G. Flake’s “Who Am I Without Him?” had them begging for more.
These days, young adult books — novels targeted to readers ages 12-18 — are booming, thanks in part to blockbuster films based on both old and new series like Suzanne Collins’s “The Hunger Games” and Jeff Kinney’s “Diary of a Wimpy Kid.”
Teachers have long used films as a supplement to teach literature because when they’re done well, whether it’s “Harry Potter” or Robert Mulligan’s 1962 film adaptation of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” showing a film isn’t just a treat for students; the experience can also deepen the discussion and understanding of the original text.
In the next few years, several films based on books loved by students and educations alike will be hitting the big screen. From riveting court dramas to heartfelt stories, here are five new projects to keep on your radar.
Based on the best-selling novel by R.J. Palacio, “Wonder” follows Auggie Pullman, a boy whose facial deformity kept him from attending a mainstream school. After several surgeries, Auggie prepares to enter fifth grade at Beecher Prep and is worried about fitting in. The film adaptation of the book stars Julia Roberts, Owen Wilson, and Jason Tremblay and hits theaters just in time for the holiday season.
Legendary author Walter Dean Myers is very popular with young readers. With more than 100 books under his belt, Myers has won several awards, including the American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults. In “Monster,” one of his popular titles (and my favorite book to teach), Myers tells the story of 16-year-old Steve Harmon, who’s on trial for murder after a store owner is killed during a robbery. The film adaptation is being produced by music heavyweights John Legend and Nas and will star Jennifer Hudson, A$AP Rocky, Kelvin Harrison Jr., and Jeffrey Wright.
There have been no shortage of films based on William Shakespeare’s classic plays, but Lisa Klein’s novel “Ophelia” reimagines “Hamlet” from her perspective. The novel, which was named Best Book of the Year by TeenReads.com, is expected to hit theaters in 2018. The adaptation will star Daisy Ridley, Naomi Watts, and Clive Owen.
“If Beale Street Could Talk”
The first James Baldwin book I ever read was his 1974 novel “If Beale Street Could Talk.” The love story centers on Tish and Fonny and their struggle to stay together after Fonny is accused of a crime. The book was assigned in my 11th grade AP literature and composition class, and it blew my mind and turned me into a lifelong Baldwin fan. The novel is being adapted for the screen by Oscar-winning director Barry Jenkins and will star Kiki Layne and Stephan James.
“A Wrinkle in Time”
Madeleine L'Engle’s classic fantasy novel “A Wrinkle in Time” has been a favorite of young readers since it was released in 1963, making it a popular title to adapt for the film. So far, there’s been a film and TV series based on the book, and Disney is gearing up for yet another remake next March. The big budget — and super inclusive — project was directed by Ava DuVernay and stars Storm Reid, Mindy Kaling, Reese Witherspoon, and Oprah Winfrey.