In her book Engaging Reluctant Readers Through Foreign Films, Kerry P. Holmes recounts a Saturday evening, one where she intended to put all thoughts of school aside and relax with her husband. It was decided that they would finally watch East/West, a French film with English subtitles. At first, she found herself grumbling over the subtitles, but as the film progressed, she became swept up in the plot—so much so in fact, that she forgot she was even reading the subtitles. This experience sparked an epiphany: What if she started using foreign films to engage reluctant readers?
As many of us know, finding creative ways to focus reluctant readers on books, the very thing that evokes feelings of frustration, inadequacy and failure, is challenging. But there are several reasons that foreign films can capture students’ interest and stimulate their imagination in ways that books can’t.
Films are sensory
Psychologists have long known that the brain is a “novelty seeker.” We are attracted to movement and stimulated by unexpected events. Films are brimming with moving images and sounds; these create a context for the text in ways that print simply can’t. Let’s explain.
In foreign films, sight and sound are used simultaneously. A man shouts; we see it, hear it and read it. In fact, every action is accompanied by sound, movement and text, which means that your reluctant readers are hearing and seeing the emotion of the words they are reading.
Subtitles come in short bursts, not long pages
Long paragraphs and twenty-page chapters can be paralyzing for reluctant readers. The text in subtitles, however, appears in short bursts that are never more than one or two sentences at a time. There’s something else to consider: The text we find in a typical book is limited to small black words on a page. Sure, there may be accompanying pictures or graphics, but they don’t move, speak, or make sound. Films do all three.
Foreign films come in a variety of genres
How often do your reluctant readers complain that there aren’t any books that suit their interests? By adding foreign films to your classroom library, students will have even less of a reason to say they can’t find “books” that they like. Like books, foreign films come in a variety of genres; there’s bound to be one that will resonate with them.
Foreign films expose students to cultural differences
As with books, foreign films allow students to transcend their own lives for a short time and enter the lives of those from another culture. In films, cultural differences (which are often abstract) can be seen, heard and read, making them much more real and digestible.
If you are looking for a few more ways to engage your reluctant readers, check out two of our recent blogs, Text-Based Games: A cure for the common book? and Engaging reluctant readers with a multi-media reading experience.