I love this book. I... I love reading!
A common PSA type plot
for kids shows and movies. There's a few possible plots that lead to this:
Usually the new reader(s) have to overcome Anti-Intellectualism
and other prejudices in themselves and others. Frequently these episodes include a rainy day and power outage to force the kids to read, or have them sick and needing a lot of bed rest. The children who learn this aesop usually decide that, even though the weather is better and/or they aren't sick anymore they'll continue to read. May overlap with Separate Scene Storytelling
. If this trope is paired with New Media Are Evil
the message tends to boil down to "put down your mind numbing handheld device and read a mind opening book". Anviliciousness
It's worth noting that a show can be just as likely to promote the opposite Aesop, that too much reading can be just as bad as too little, and encourage kids to go out and play or make friends. The idea of reading as being good for you is actually a fairly new concept
that came with the advent of television. Prior to that, recreational reading was viewed in pretty much the same sense as watching television is today.
Oddly enough, the trope is usually limited to novels, and ignores the value of reading across other media, such as magazines, comic books, manga, novellas, articles and short stories.
It also doesn't help that, if done poorly, it can suggest that all books are "classics", or just very long. For example, the reluctant reader is presented with a "classic" book (which they will inevitably learn to love), rather than a more modern work (e.g Harry Potter). As the language used in classic books tends to be alien to a new reader, and the stereotype that classic books are snobby and dull, it can have the wrong effect. Unfortunately, classics tend to be in the public domain
and, therefore, require jumping through fewer legal hoops to work with.
Film - Live Action
Film - Western Animation
- Books are what set up the plot in the Project Crossover Books series. The first Fan Fiction in the series, Paper Mario Eds, has Ed find a strange book in the school library. Reading it makes the Eds get transported to the Paper Mario world. At the end of the story, the Eds receives a series of seemingly empty books entitled Crossover Books, which are activated based on the Eds' interests, wishes, and themes. At the end of the story, the Eds have the entirety of their adventure recorded on the book. However, if the Eds fail their adventure, they will be permanently stuck in the current world.
- The Pagemaster tried to do this, but as many people pointed out, it doesn't really encourage reading, instead name-dropping a few literary classics and using loose approximations of their plots and characters for action scenes.
- This is probably the second biggest aesop in Beauty and the Beast, after the moral about learning to love someone for who they are inside. The main character is a girl who loves reading for recreation, even though everyone else around her in her "poor, provincial town" other than father thinks her odd for it. The "Human Again" sequence from the stage musical (and adapted for the film's special edition) goes further, with Belle teaching The Beast to read and him admitting that he never knew books could be so powerful - by making him forget, if only for a moment, who and what he is. The theme continues in the follow-up films.
- In Atlantis The Lost Empire, Kida struggles to explain to Milo why their culture is rotting from within. Then it becomes apparent. Their own writing has become lost knowledge.
- The Never Ending Story fits the second type; Bastian is drawn into the story and becomes a character as he reads.
- Ironically, the movie is more Anvilicious than the original book. In the book the emphasis is on imagination, no matter what the source, and Bastian is considered amazing because he can make up new stories on the fly. In the movie this is reduced to a basic "reading is good, TV is bad"-Aesop.
- The primary theme in The Phantom Tollbooth is a more general "learning is cool", so this naturally is going to be a major subtheme.
- In an out of print U.S.Acres book called 'Sir Orson to the rescue!', Orson was reading a book about King Arthur. Roy mocked that 'Reading is for nerds'. To get back at Orson for insulting him, Roy took the book while Orson and the chicks were sleeping. He thought of burying it in the woods, but then he read the rest of the story, Orson left off, then couldn't stop reading it.
- In Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, this aesop is presented in tandem with New Media Are Evil in the Oompa-Loompa song that follows on from the undoing of Mike Teavee. The song urges parents to get rid of their television sets, no matter how much their children might protest, and bring in books as a substitute. It goes on to assure them that once the kids are bored enough by a lack of TV, they'll give the books a try, and soon will forget all about "that nauseating, foul, unclean,/Repulsive television screen!"
- Fahrenheit 451 (an example for adults) is set in a future dystopia where reading is outlawed and book burnings are the norm. The protagonist gradually comes around to the idea that Reading Is Cool, which lands him in trouble with the authorities.
- A Brother's Price emphasizes that the protagonist and his family are avid readers. They can't only read normal writing, they're also fluent in thieves' cant. This even becomes a plot point when they have to break a code in order to solve a murder The contrast to this is a boy who refuses to learn how to read and write, insisting that he will never need such skills anyway. His cousin is convinced that reading is cool, and tries to teach him, but due to his considering it useless, her success is limited.
- Reading Rainbow was an entire series dedicated to teaching kids that reading is cool.
- Similarly, Wishbone is all about a Jack Russell Terrier that loves to read classic novels.
- In an episode of the Chinese wuxia TV series Seven Swordsmen, we learn that the reason Swordsman Mu wants to learn to read is that his entire family was killed because of their illiteracy. The "festival banners" they were hired to put up were actually anti-government slogans, and the government soldiers were very displeased.
- Spoofed in the Hannah Montana episode "Love That Lets Go". Jackson keeps procrastinating on a book report and says reading is dumb. He has a nightmare where John Cena appears and beats him up, berating him for mocking books. A terrified Jackson wakes up and starts the book report.
- Bomani Armah's "Read a Book" rap takes this almost to the point of parody.
- This is the main point being driven home by the shows Between the Lions and Wilbur, whose slogan is that "Books are moovelous!"
- This shows up occasionally on the Winnie-the-Pooh franchise, but special credit goes to The Book of Pooh for a general focus on language and reading, and even more special credit goes to that show's song "Carried Away with Books" in which the characters and Owl in particular sing about how books can carry you away on adventures.
- Bear in the Big Blue House had Bear's Book Club in "Read My Book" and also a two-parter in which Bear and the kids pitch in to fix up a library that was damaged in a storm.
- An Alvin and the Chipmunks episode had Dave reading Treasure Island, and at the end, the boys turned off the TV and video games to read The Three Musketeers.
- Crosses over with Even Evil Has Standards in He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983). Batros earns Skeletor's admiration after stealing all of the books on Eternia. When Beast-Man questions why Batros would steal mere books as opposed to gold or precious gems, Skeletor scolds him and says that "Books are the real treasures of the world".
- There's a song in the musical episode of Arthur in which the refrain goes "Having fun isn't hard/When you've got a library card."
- In another episode, Arthur bemoans the fact that he wasted his entire summer vacation because he didn't do any of the things on his summer "to-do" list, then realizes he did all of them by reading stories.
- This aesop practically appears everywhere in the series, which makes sense since the cartoon was based off a book series. Heck, Arthur's last name is "Read".
- Gargoyles had an early episode with Merlin's diary. Everyone was thinking it would be Merlin's spellbooks, Macbeth was particularly disappointed partly because he already has a copy of Merlin's diary. Broadway and Hudson start learning how to read.
- Much earlier than that, they made an implicit statement that reading is cool by portraying Hakon as not only the ruthless Viking who slaughtered most of the Wyvern Clan, but also unapologetically illiterate. "Magic spells, hah! Makes me glad I can't read!"
- The My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "Read It and Weep" has Rainbow Dash laid up at a hospital with nothing to do. Twilight suggests a book, but Dash resists because "reading is for eggheads". Eventually she starts reading, and becomes enraptured with a story about Adventurer Archaeologist Daring Do. So much so that when she is discharged, she sneaks back into the hospital to finish the book. It helps that Twilight selected the right fiction genre, light adventure, to appeal to her.
- Subverted in the South Park episode "Chicken Lover". Officer Barbrady turns out to be illiterate and has to be taught how to read in order to solve the mystery of who is having sex with chickens. The culprit turns out to be the owner of the bookmobile, as part of a convoluted plot to get Barbrady to read books. At the end, Barbrady swears off reading after having to slog through Atlas Shrugged.
- The Recess episode "The Library Kid" uses this aesop.
- Possibly enforced on PB&J Otter, as if the characters were seen reading anything, it was usually comic books, but an episode late in the show's run had them singing about how great reading adventure books was.
- Used in "Dora's Royal Rescue" on Dora the Explorer, which is essentially a Whole Plot Reference of Don Quixote, save the more adult bits about Quixote being crazy. At one point, after Swiper is stopped, he sees some books, including one about puppies that he'd like to read, and Dora's steed tells him "No one can be all bad if he likes to read." Oh, and by the way, the love of reading is ultimately what defeats the villain, making his magic wand go away as the characters declare "I love to read!" and encouraging the viewers to do so also. It turns out that the reason he wants to stop everyone from reading is because he himself can't read. He never learned. In the end, Don Quixote agrees to teach him read, at Dora's suggestion.
- In the Tiny Toon Adventures episode "Why Dizzy Can't Read" (part of a Three Shorts episode called "Elephant Issues"), Dizzy Devil is addicted to television, but eventually embraces reading after a Dream Sequence he has upon being knocked out by a book on fairy tales. The punchline of the episode is that we see a group of kids so engrossed in reading that they're not watching cartoons, leading Dizzy to stick his arm out of the TV set and turn it off.
- In one episode of Conan The Adventurer, Conan causes a ruckus in town because he could not read a particular sign. He then admits to his friends that he can't read or write at all. Conan spends a good chunk of the episode trying to change this. He takes great pride in learning how write his own name.
- This is Truth in Television; lots of children's libraries promote reading as a way to find new adventures.
- During the 90's, this became a little on the Anvilicious side. Many (ironically!) televised PSA's were heavily pushing this aesop, and more often than not, they had a New Media Are Evil slant.