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"Reading Is Cool" Aesop

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That Great Big Book of Everything has an awesome chapter on literacy.

"I love this book. I... I love reading!"

A common PSA type plot and Aesop for kids' shows and movies. There's a few possible plots that lead to this:

  • A book is a Chekhov's Gun or contains a Chekhov's Lesson, and reading helps you solve the plot.
  • It's a Portal Book that takes an Intrepid Fictioneer and reluctant readers to a living adventure.
  • Related to Portal Book, reading lets the characters inside come into the real world and you can have crazy adventures.
  • The book's lead character(s) are Expys or Audience Surrogates of the reader(s) who finds themselves in a similar situation to the plot of the book. Similar to the first point, the resolution of the book helps solve a real life problem. If live action, almost always played by the same actor.
  • In the case of religious edutainment, expect characters to get immersed figuratively or literally in reading the Bible in Christian shows or reading the Quran in Muslim shows and Aesops about reading them.
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  • Some books are like crack, and finding the right book is really fun (this tends to be the most realistic form of the trope).

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 optional.

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. For instance, the books of the Stratemeyer Syndicate like The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew series were regarded as worthless garbage in the 1920s and 1930s that ruined kids' appreciation of the classics. Of course, by the time the properties' most successful adaptation, The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries, came out in The '70s, it was greeted by some parents with some hope that their kids watching it might like to read the novels next.


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, short stories and non-fiction books. And not to mention, reading in digital formats such as e-books and apps for tablets and phones. For that matter, it has largely not been discussed in popular entertainment whether listening to an Audio Adaptation of a book of literature counts as "reading," but considering the audiobook medium is a consistently growing sector of the otherwise struggling book market, expect that subject to come up.

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. Another option would be to have a fictional work within the story.

And in this day and age where written media is distributed digitally, expect Aesops about reading a physical book. If it's saying that the screen-based entertainment is inferior to books, see Books vs. Screens.


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     Anime & Manga 

     Comic Books 
  • Groo the Wanderer: Played with in the 100th issue. Trapped with a wise old man in a library-cave with no exits, Groo gets bored enough to pay attention to the old man's teachings. Eventually a group of greedy treasure-hunters hearing about 'the treasure of the cave' intrude, and in their search for gold and jewels set the library on fire. Taranto and Pal were among the looters, and their usual attempts to trick Groo into helping them only led to a sound pummeling. The series' usual Status Quo Is God was given an exception: Groo remained literate (not intelligent, just literate).
    Taranto: Watch this! I can handle him! Groo, do you not remember me? Your old friend Taranto?
    Groo: I remember you..." (Begins to attack Taranto and his forces)... And I remember I am very mad at you—! (After Taranto and his men are thrashed or running, Groo sees Drumm cheerfully standing by, holding a sign reading YOU ARE A MENDICANT) Drumm... do you know what it says on that paper?
    Drumm: (curiously) No. (Groo turns his attention to Pal)
    Pal: Uhh, Groo... I was kidding! It was a joke, would you harm a person for a joke? (Groo beats Pal senseless)
    Pal: (thought balloon) Apparently, he would.
    Groo: Learn to read, Drumm. It makes it harder for people to fool you.

     Fan Works 
  • 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.

     Film - Animation 
  • 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.

     Film - Live Action 
  • The Princess Bride uses a grandfather reading to his sick grandson as the framing device, and the movie shows the kid get thoroughly hooked.
  • The way Book Burnings are handled in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade kind of comes off as this trope, showing a mass burning of Jewish literature as a collective Kick the Dog for the participating Berliners. The elder Dr. Jones later references this in a minor Awesome Moment:
    Vogel: What does the diary tell you that it doesn't tell us?
    Dr. Jones, Sr.: It tells me that goose-stepping morons like yourself should try reading books instead of burning them!

  • The NeverEnding 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!"
  • Roald Dahl gets into this trope even further with "Matilda", where the titular protagonist gains Psychic Powers thanks to her love of reading and learning, not to mention that her TV-loving parents are shown as quite callous.
  • 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.
  • This aesop is a huge part of William Goldman's The Princess Bride. According to the book's (fictional) framing narrative, the young Goldman was a hopeless sports nerd until The Princess Bride turned him into a passionate book-lover.
  • Surf's Up by Kwame Alexander is rather an interesting look on this trope. A frog named Dude wants to go surfing, but his friend won't stop reading Moby-Dick (Type 5). As Dude bikes Bro, who is still reading his book, to the beach, Dude can't help listening to what Bro is reading and the illustrations transport him to the story (Type 4). Finally at the beach, Dude has learned his lesson and decides to read instead of surf.
  • Magic Ex Libris there are few characters who don't love reading, and the most common form of magic is libriomancy, allowing items (and at higher levels, spells and powers) from books to be duplicated, allowing for all sorts of really cool scenes and ideas. This power only comes to passionate readers in the first place...
  • Animorphs: Andalites apparently came up with books after computers, and consider them superior. Of course, this was the 90's, when computers weren't yet as essential to human lives.
  • The Marlow Series Nicola Marlow is a reader for whom novels and fictional characters become real: she reads extensively and introduces her readers to writers including C. S. Forester, Mary Renault, Dudley Pope, Nicholas Monsarrat, and Richard Hakluyt. While not intended as an Aesop, Nicola's enthusiasm for the books she is reading may have led younger readers of her novels to the authors themselves: this troper discovered both Forester and Renault because Nicola Marlow was reading them.
  • This is the main aesop of Guardian Cats and the Lost Books of Alexandria. It's about "the mystical power of books". In it, a bookworm housecat named Marco realizes he's chosen to become a Guardian library cat. Marco goes on a dangerous mystical adventure as he tries to keep the secret Book of Motion safely guarded away.

     Live Action TV 
  • Carl Sagan summed it all up in Cosmos:
    What an astonishing thing a book is. It's a flat object made from a tree with flexible parts on which are imprinted lots of funny dark squiggles. But one glance at it and you're inside the mind of another person, maybe somebody dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia, an author is speaking clearly and silently inside your head, directly to you. Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people who never knew each other, citizens of distant epochs. Books break the shackles of time. A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic.
  • Our Miss Brooks: Subverted in "Bones, Son of Cyrano", where Mr. Boynton breaks a date with Miss Brooks to read the rest of Cyrano de Bergerac. Miss Brooks had advised Mr. Boynton to read it in the first place in the hope it would make him less Oblivious to Love.
  • Reading Rainbow was an entire series dedicated to teaching kids that reading is cool.
  • 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.
  • Subverted in the Elvis And Slick Monty episode "Woo's the Boss". When the main characters try Talking with Signs during the endless cheering of the Studio Audience, Elvis tells Slick he can't read. Slick teaches Elvis how to read books, after which Elvis clarifies that he meant he can't read Slick's handwriting.
  • Used ironically in a famous vignette put out by the Brazilian MTV in the early-to-mid 2000s: "Turn off the TV and go read a book!"
  • The cast of Beetleborgs did a few PSA segments dedicated to reading. One of them featured the Hillhurst monsters in Imagine Spots as the heroes of the books they were reading. Another had the kids discuss how reading is an important part of being an actor (but what they like to read most is fan mail). And another had the kids do a rap song about how much fun reading is.
  • Lupin: Assane's father encouraged his son to read when he offered him a Arsène Lupin novel, and Assane did the same with his son, who dropped playing video games as a result. Assane also became a badass Gentleman Thief and Phantom Thief out of his love for the adventures of Maurice Leblanc's literary hero.
  • Barney & Friends had 3 songs that taught this lesson: "The Library", "I Love to Read", and "Books Are Fun".

  • Bomani Armah's "Read a Book" rap takes this almost to the point of parody.
  • The Nintendo-endorsed album White Knuckle Scorin' features a pack-in Super Mario World comic where Mario and Princess Toadstool respectively teach Yoshi and the Koopalings how to read, and each has repercussions on the plot.
  • Tears for Fears' "Sowing The Seeds Of Love":
    "Everyone, read about it
    Everyone, scream about it
    Everyone (everyone, yeah)
    Everyone (everyone) read about it, read about it
    Read it in the books, in the crannies and the nooks, there are books to read"

     Newspaper Comics 
  • One Calvin and Hobbes comic has Calvin and Hobbes encounter a snake slithering across the ground. They realize that the snake has several mysterious behaviors, so they decide to find and read a book about snakes. However, Calvin soon objects to the thought of spending a summer day learning about something his schoolteacher would make him learn. Hobbes assures him that since the teacher's not forcing Calvin to read over the summer, doing so anyway could still prove fun. Calvin ends up agreeing while he and Hobbes read the snake book together.
    Calvin And Hobbes: "Cooooooool".

     Professional Wrestling 

     Puppet Shows 
  • 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.
  • Los Lunnis featured an exceptionally unsubtle episode where Lucho suffered a magical disorder, caused by watching too much TV, which could be cured only by reading. For extra cringe, his favorite TV show was a parody of Dragon Ball - although this was probably less of an intentional statement on anime than a petty Take That! to rival network Cuatro, which at the time was broadcasting Dragon Ball in direct competition to them (in fact, Los Lunnis's network used to broadcast a lot of anime too along with them).

     Web Comics 

     Western Animation 
  • Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog:
    • In the episode, "Best Hedgehog", has its Sonic Says segment to be about this Aesop:
    Sonic: I love reading! Books can take you to far-away lands, and exotic places, or show how to see everyday things in a way cool way! Too bad some people have a problem learning how to read. If you know who has trouble reading, tell them to ask a teacher, or get help at a local library. All they have to do is ask. I'll tell ya, there's worlds of fun at reading!
    • The last episode, "Sonically Ever After", has its Sonic Says segment to be about going to the library.
  • 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.
  • Arthur:
    • There's a song in "Arthur's Almost Live Not Real Music Festival" in which the refrain goes "Having fun isn't hard/When you've got a library card." The song surrounds all the cool things that can be done in libraries, including the kinds of interesting and informative books it has.
    • In "The Short, Quick Summer", 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.
    • "Falafelosophy", starring Neil Gaiman, provides a rare example of an Aesop in favor of reading graphic novels: they inspire Sue Ellen to be creative and try her hand at writing and illustrating her own work.
    • "Buster Hits the Books" has Buster try to find a book to read for a school report after initially cheating by basing his report on a movie instead. Arthur gives him multiple books to try reading, but Buster gets bored and gives up reading each of these books no matter how short they are. He reads a book that Arthur is also reading, Robin Hood, and he loves it so much that he spends the entire night reading it.
    • 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".
  • Beetlejuice is sent back to kindergarten in "Back to School Ghoul" and he doesn't want to go through the learning process. But when Lydia makes a grotesque face to scare off someone antagonizing Beetlejuice, he asks her where she learned it. Holding up a book, Lydia chirps "I read!" This is all the incentive Beetlejuice needed to complete his schooling.
  • The Captain Planet and the Planeteers episode "The Fine Print" had the importance of reading as its moral, the conflict dealing with Looten Plunder duping an illiterate worker named Joe into spreading pesticides to ruin the farm he's working on by lying to him that the pesticide is actually a nutrient that will help the crops. The Planeteer Alert for the episode even had the Planeteers inform the audience of how being able to read can help them find ways to take better care of the environment.
  • 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.
  • 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 how to read, at Dora's suggestion.
  • Gargoyles:
    • There was 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!"
  • 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".
  • Jem loves this aesop. The series has no less than two episodes dedicated to it:
    • One of the main Starlight Girls is Ba Nee. She loves to read, which created an issue when she started to go blind (though an operation fixed that).
    • "Roxy Rumbles" is one of the most remembered episodes in the series since it's Roxy centered. Roxy Never Learned to Read and when she botched an appearance on live TV, her bandmates (excluding Stormer) made fun of her. She leaves, coincidentally finds a winning lottery ticket, and decides to permanently leave the band. In the end she loses the cash and The Misfits drag her back, partially due to her inability to read contracts. Ba Nee gives Roxy a book for beginner readers and we're shown Roxy to begin learning to read. This is given a reference in the season finale when The Misfits come to Ba Nee's going away party.
    • One episode has The Misfits and The Holograms going on a literature-themed treasure hunt where the prize is first-editions of books.
    • "Open A Book" is a song Jem and the Holograms sing about reading.
  • The Loud House episode "Read Aloud" has Lola refusing to participate in a book reading challenge because she thinks reading is boring. When Lincoln learns that Lola has trouble reading, he helps her learn that reading can be fun the more she tries.
  • In the Muppet Babies (2018) episode, "Library Leapfrog", Miss Nanny takes the babies to the library to check out books. While the other babies are excited about checking out books, Robin isn't, as he would much rather play his video game. The other babies show Robin how much fun reading can be when they go inside the books themselves and have an adventure getting Robin's video game back from Piggy and Summer when he accidentally gives it to them instead of his box of animal crackers. By the end of the episode, Robin decides that he would much rather check out the book of Zorna and the Muffonians than play his video game.
  • 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. Somewhat unusually, the book in question is a modern-type light adventure novel, as opposed to the "classics" that this trope normally involves.
  • 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.
  • Phineas and Ferb has an episode in which Candace, Stacy and the titular duo go to England to visit their grandparents. Candace is bored and her grandmother suggests that she and Stacy read to spice things up. Candace responds by saying that reading is what people did before they invented fun but resolves to read "Sherlock Holmes" nonetheless. cut to both Candace and Stacy with loads of bags under their eyes indicating their lack of sleep. Candace says that they read the entire series causing her grandmother to smile and say "before they invented fun, indeed."
  • The Recess episode "The Library Kid" uses this aesop.
  • 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 (which the bookmobile guy rewarded Barbrady for solving the case, ironically enough).
  • We bet you five bucks you can't name an episode of Super Why! that doesn't teach this lesson.
  • The Tales from the Cryptkeeper episode "All Booked Up" had a boy being taught the value of reading by the Crypt Keeper, who does so by putting the boy through reenactments of Frankenstein, The Man in the Iron Mask, and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. When the Crypt Keeper is done with the boy, he can't get enough of books.
  • 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.
  • The Teen Titans Go! episode "Books" parodies this trope. All Beast Boy and Cyborg learn is that reading is addictive and dangerous.

     Real Life 
  • 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.
  • During the Red Scare, Joe McCarthy and Roy Cohn started mounting a campaign against subversive literature and mounted a campaign to ban books across various libraries and burn them. President Eisenhower, criticized this campaign with a simple exhortation:
    Eisenhower: "Don't join the book burners. ... Don't be afraid to go in your library and read every book."

Alternative Title(s): Reading Is Cool


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