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I Make My Kids Read the Book Before Watching the Movie

Kids across America will be lining up to see "Mockingjay Part 2" this weekend, but my 10-year-old won't be one of them. Not because it's too violent or because of the dystopian world where children are forced to fight to the death so their districts can eat for the next year, or even because of the simmering tension in the Katniss-Peetah-Gale love triangle. It's because he hasn't read the "Hunger Games" book series yet.

Call me an over-protective mom or Tiger Mother, but I'm a firm believer that the book is always better. With my older son, I generally enforced the policy of reading the book before watching the movies, but I slacked off with my younger one. Here's what I've learned ...

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1. If they watch the movies first, they aren't as motivated to read the books.

My husband and I read the first few "Harry Potter" books as bedtime stories to the boys. As Big Brother got older, he finished up the longer, darker "Harry Potter" volumes on his own. And as a gift that Christmas, we gave him the entire collection of "Harry Potter" DVDs, which we watched as a family. Little Brother, who was in first grade at the time, was so enthralled that he dressed up as a member of the House of Slytherin for the next two Halloweens. But when he was looking for books to read, he didn't even give the series a glance.

2. With movies, you can miss out on a lot of internal stories.

While the action and settings can really come to life on the big screen—"The Chronicles of Narnia" or "The Hobbit" movies come to mind—the characters can feel a little two-dimensional compared to the rich inner worlds described between the covers. While the "Hunger Games" and "Harry Potter" movies were thrilling eye-candy, I felt more of a sense of being on the edge of my seat while reading the books, as I could really feel Katniss' and Harry's internal struggles.

3. When you read the book, you are your own casting director.

Maybe the characters you imagine in your own head are better than any Hollywood portrayal.

Remember how some people were so shocked that Rue was black when the first "Hunger Games" movie came out? Didn't they read the descriptions of the dark-skinned residents of the mostly-agricultural district? Meanwhile, I was kind of irked that Katniss, described as one of the olive-skinned, racially ambiguous residents of the Seam, was played by the very unambiguously blonde and blue-eyed Jennifer Lawrence. Maybe the characters you imagine in your own head are better than any Hollywood portrayal.

4. Sometimes the movies really butcher classic tales.

I pity the poor toddler who thinks that Jim Carey's Grinch is what Dr. Seuss envisioned. Don't even get me started on "The Lorax" remake. And any kid who relies on the "Percy Jackson" movies to learn about Greek mythology will probably need some remedial work in high school World History class.

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5. Eventually they will agree that reading the book first is the way to go.

My older son recently got invited to see the second "Maze Runner" movie with some friends. He decided—all on his own—to skip the outing. The reason? He hadn't read the books or seen the first movie. My work here is done!

Photograph by: Hunger Games / Instagram

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