Ghostwriter may be more fun than any show about literacy on TV. But as soon as kids sniff a hint of that good-for-you dorkiness, you can bet they’ll zap the channel faster than you can say PBS. No problem: Sly parents can still get kids to hone their reading skills through video — by engrossing them in some entertaining movies that just happen to use written words in their plots. Here, a few of the movies you can get on tape that are appropriate for a variety of ages and reading levels.
MY LIFE AS A DOG (1987) A poignant film about a young boy growing up in Sweden during the late ’50s. Be sure to ask for the subtitled, not the dubbed, version. Appropriate for readers 10 and up who can handle sophisticated themes.
JUMPIN’ JACK FLASH (1986) Perfect for teens with reading difficulties, it’s got adventure, laughs, and romance — all conveyed via computer screen. Star Whoopi Goldberg reads the words as they appear on her screen to help viewers/readers follow the plot as well as the text.
WAR GAMES (1983) Matthew Broderick plays a hacker who breaks into a top secret government computer. Messages appear on the computer screen throughout the movie, adding to the plot twists. Ages 10 and up.
SILENT MOVIE (1976) Mel Brooks uses extensive title cards in this send-up of Hollywood and silent films. The actor-director springs plenty of breast and burp jokes, though, so this movie should be reserved for somewhat older readers, despite its PG rating.
BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (1946) Life before Disney? Yes, indeed: Jean Cocteau’s fantastical 1946 live-action version of the fairy tale carries English subtitles that kids ages 9 and up should be able to read easily.
THE GOLD RUSH (1925) The Charlie Chaplin classic ensures giggles with both action and title cards that are simple enough for all readers.