Moving at the Speed of Creativity by Wesley Fryer

“Prince Caspian” and the Return to Narnia: Making the Journey to Literacy Through Fantasy

These are my notes from a session titled:

“Prince Caspian” and the Return to Narnia: Making the Journey to Literacy Through Fantasy

by Randy Testa, Vice President of Education for Walden Media, LLC. Randy shared this presentation at the 2007 EncycloMedia presentation in Oklahoma City on 8/29/2007. Because of copyrights on media materials Randy is sharing, he could NOT give me permission to share a recording of this session.

rtesta [at] waldon [dot] com

Have lots of fall interns coming from Tufts University who will help send out more materials

Has 9 excerpts from “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” on the free DVD we received, and an educator’s guide that goes with the DVD
– facilitates conversations with students about what happens in the movie, what happens in the book, etc.

Educator DVD has nice menu of 9 clips
1- Lucy Discovers the Wardrobe
2- Lucy & Mr Tumnus Intro
3- The White Witch Tempts Edmond
4- Mr and Mrs Beaver Explain the Prophesy
5- Father Christmas
6- The Children Ask Aslan for Help
7- Edmond is Forgiven
8- The Four Children are Crowned
9- Creating Creatures: Mr. Tumnus

We selected clips that really get at the guts of the story, not battle scenes
– there are extraordinary turning points in this story
– the narrator, CS Lewis, interrupts the story of Edmond’s forgiveness to say “never before and never since
– ask students “What do you think Aslan said to Edmond?”

I still can’t believe I have this job, it is a lot of fun, and I also think it is pretty important

Walden Media did “Bridge to Terebithia,” “Charlotte’s Web,” “Because of Winn Dixie,” our sister company also did “Amazing Grace” about abolition of the slave trade
– We also did “Lion, Witch”
– some states have talked about requiring a curriculum where people learn about Wilbur Wilberforce

power of film, telling good stories: helping make better people

I was born in Ohio, 1 of 5 sons, father was Sicilian
– we spent a lot of time at the drive in
– I was a kid who loved to read but also loved the movies

it is nonsense to say “if kids see the movie they won’t read the book”


Ohio had 189 drive in movie theaters at one point in history
NEA Report: Reading at Risk: A Surven of Literary Reading in America
– this is a powerful

less than half adult American population now reads literature
– only slightly more than one thrid of adult american males now read literature
– over the past 20 years young adults (18-24) have declined from being most likely to read literature to least likely

Reading decline correlates with increased participation in electronic media
– 1999 statistics

Good news: literary reading strongly correlates to other forms of active civic participation
– literary readers more likely than non-literary readers to:
– perform volunteer and charity work
– visit art museums
– attend performing arts events
– attend sporting events
– vote

It is good for the nation for us to encourage kids and adults to read!

In Massachusetts we call NCLB “no child left:
– high cost of content literature
– social studies is being carved out for more reading

bottom line: accelerating declines in literary reading among all demographic groups of American adults indicate an imminent cultural crisis
– indeed, at the current rate of loss, literary reading as a leisure activity will virtually disappear in half a century


The release of a “faithful film adaption”
– offers occasions in the larger culture to revisit and restate a literary work’s merit
– introduces a whole new generation of readers, studetns and adults, to these literary works
– invites exploration of a work’s signficantce in the world today, across ages and seensibilities

Effect of the movie “Capote” – “In Cold Blood” was re-released, and all the books were gone in 3 weeks
– for “Bridge to Terebithia”

I want us to to do “Mr Popper Penguins” or “21 Balloons”
– many kids love Captain Underpants because they haven’t been exposed to other, more classic literature

Good books + Faithfully adapted movies + good teaching =
– increasing interest in book: before, during, after film’s release (student’s ask librarians, “do you have any more books by …”
– Making use of the cultural moment
— before release of a film, as a way to motivate reading the book so students will be in on things when the movie opens
— after relesae of a film, as a way to compare, discuss, analyze, motivate, reward, expand

Have rich opportunities for comparative analysis between books and movies!

does there have to be an original text?
– can there be a conversation between the texts?

Next Narnia book out in May 2008, next book coming out the next year!

Even more important
– I am a 3rd grade teacher
– if you are going to
– some kids need to see it in a variety of modalities
– retention, comprehension, capacity for empathy (what Henry James called “the felt life”)
– occasion to teach about media literacy and multiple forms of literacy

A personal beef: Who, What, Where, When, and Why?
– WHO says children shouldn’t simultaneously be reading “on” “above” and “below” grade level
– WHAT makes educators sabotage the very goals they extol? (e.g. “life-long readers”)
– WHERE did the current obsession with “the grade level of this book” come from?
– Since WHEN is Charlotte’s Web “primarily for students in grades K-3”
– WHY can’t AP ‘honors English’ students read “Prince Caspian”

The “Annotated Charlotte’s Web” is a great work

Educators always ask “what grade level is this book?
– I wish had a lever
– since when is that the first question you ask about a book you don’t know??????

Reading Levels an Formulas Don’t Necessarily Create Lifelong Readers
– chlidren who become lifelong readers:
– have access to books
— make THEIR OWN CHOICES about what to read
— are actively encouraged to read ‘above’ and ‘below’ ‘grade level’ (from “Formula for Failure” by Betty Carter, Associate Professor of Library Science, School of Library and INformation STudies, Texas Women’s University, Denton, TX)

when I was in the 3rd grade we could check out 10 books, of those just 3 would be books I could actually read
– remember those great books on the human body with the cellophane parts you could fold out?
– who cared if kids were reading the texts in some of those cases!

there is no where lese except in school when people read short little passages and then take out number 2

those tests do NOT test what kids actually do when they encounter a book

Problems with assigning students to reading levels….

Technology and Media Literacy: What Do TEachers Need to Know?

Why teachers (generally) avoid using film
“pop and play” is not teaching (popping in a movie and going down the hall
– opposite of kids seeing the movie is true: they see the movie, many want to read the book!
– perceived by school heads and/or parents as “babysitting” (ie not academic)
– we can’t take the time in our school to show a movie”

teachers don’t value film, as an art form, or in their own lives
– most teachers just see 4 movies per year
– this is in STARK contrast to the movie watching habits of our youth
– we need (as teachers) to watch more movies, be more literate of film as a genre and value it more

Librarians are the people in a school who know where the action is
– AASL: we work with them a lot

Consider: Books and Films are both texts
– written text
– visual text
– same message: tell a story
– different symbol system
– we’ve now moved in to publishing with Penguin, so we can move it right into publishing

Were so many
– have a good book by Joseph Bruchac about “Jim Thorpe: Original All American” are are going to use it for the basis of a screenplay

Pictures of Native American students all in uniforms, all in a music class doing the same thing
– commentary on diversity and assimilation

little movie we made last year: “How to Eat Fried Worms”
– sales of the book spiked BIG TIME after the movie

Coming out: “The White Giraffe by Lauren St John”

big question: what do you mean by “faithful adaptation”
– in your own off-stage life, consider “what is the difference between a LITERAL adaption and a FAITHFUL adaptation”

Lois Lowry’s definition: A faithful film adaptation is one that is “true to the spirit of the book”

Picture of Clive Staples Lewis
– brings us to The Chronicles of Narnia

Opening line “because of the air raids” was something everyone knew about and understood when the book was published
– just 5 years after WWII

Were posters all of the city that said sending your kids out of the city is your patriotic duty

juxtapose image of air raid opening scene from LWW and the twin towers

example of a five year old’s story about the twin towers
– in some schools kids and teachers have been told, “we’re not going to talk about that [the twin towers attack and tragedy] because it is too scary
– what we know is that

Vivian Paley: “…the children must be able to imagine themselves swimming to safety and using their jackets as pillows…”

Another great piece of ammo: CS Lewis’ essay “On Three Ways of Writing for Children” from “On Stories and Other Essays On Literature”
– fantasy is vital because it helps children make sense of reality in a way that “school stories” do not and cannot
– more….

Making sense of reality
– twin towers
– through fantasy
– first grade art examples

When I was at Dartmouth we

in play kids explore reality, morality, fantasy…

Lewis was well aware of the arguments
– “A far more serious attack on the fairy tale as children’s…..”
– good quotations here, going to fast to copy

Opening line of Charlotte’s Web: “Where is papa going with that ax?”

Lewis’ question: are we making the destinies of children BRIGHTER or DARKER?

So here we are, in Narnia on the screen
– Lewis felt that for a fantasy to work, it had to be grounded in the realities of the present day
– at the end of the film, the phoenix’s come into the battle scene an come in in the same formation as the German bomber planes at the start of the film

From the creative brief for Disney/Walden for thinking about Prince Caspian
– a parallel universe that expands through time
– vast, multi-layered world
– …

With Narnia time, things are really messed up

Powerful theme of Caspian blowing the hornWhen you hear the call, will you be ready?

Are going to have a contest for kids and educators: Who is your Dr. Cornelius?

Aslan: “Things never happen in the same way twice”

That was then, this is now….
– more than 1300 years have passed, Miraz is in power

story of Prince Caspian: “is about reawakening lost faith in a new Narnia barely recognizable from its former self”

King Mirax is a real bad guy, a real bad villain
– all three paths collide: children, Prince Caspian, and Narnia in a new era

LA partners talk about the Narnia series as a “franchise”
– in Prince Caspian you will meet characters who you’ll see later in the series

Our new hero: Prince Caspian
– educated
– knowledge: “he learned the difference between wisdom and knowledge”
– Lewis hated what was going on in the schools at the time in England


Dr Cornelius: half dwarf, half Telmarine
– what does it mean to be devoted to one’s students?
– not just efficient or concerned, but DEVOTED?

Nikabrik: a black dwarf soured by hate
Trufflehunter: Prince Caspian’s most loyal servant
Trumpkin: good hearted dwarf
Reepicheep: (my favorite)
– there are 12 of them: not 6, not 4
– when Reepicheep has has tail cut off, his brothers are all going to cut off their tales so he is not shamed
– that is my favorite scene in the book

Same four kids in the movie
– the are a year older, voices are breaking

great lion to Lucy: “You are a lioness!”

Aslan: again the voice of Liam Neesm

Library of Congress doing a massive literacy camapign
– also “Read It Before You See It” campaign from Harper Collins

lots more on
– downloadable educator guides
– PD presentations and materials, like CS Lewis and the Moral Imagination
– Online discussions for teachers and librarians only
– previews of coming attractions
– picture of me in my tuxedo on my birthday

Looking at multiple scripts for “The Giver” by Lois Lowry

Walden IS doing all 7 movies
– we are not
– slogan is “Recapturing imagination, rekindling curiosity”

Drawn Treader has just been green lit and filming is about to start
– Director of “Amazing Grace” is going to direct it, Andrew Adamsen couldn’t do it because of timing

Also releasing “The Water Horse” this December

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3 responses to ““Prince Caspian” and the Return to Narnia: Making the Journey to Literacy Through Fantasy”

  1. Jane P Parker Avatar
    Jane P Parker

    Great post. I want to read or hear it again. Seeing great stuff in the blogsphere about dvds making netflix more aware and attunded to my need to cheap good dvds for class. I am really keen on walden and glad they are making $ and staying in business. Eregon was a better movie than book in all my kids opinions.

    btw. A while back in holland mi you addressed earlier comments. It is great to have my input acted on. tks

    I am a part time teacher and will be working with homeschool families as a science teacher. I want to support this work with web2.0 and am looking for others doing this if you have any ideas…

    My burning question that I can’t ever get addressed is why there are no photos of stephen Hawkings on the web. There is one you can get but only one. How does someone control this. Very weird.

    Jane Parker
    Hastings MI

  2. Wesley Fryer Avatar

    Great to hear from you Jane, I’m glad I was able to address some of the ideas you raised back in April when I was in Holland! I am not sure why there are not more photos of Stephen Hawking. The wikipedia article for him does have several pictures.

  3. Melissa Garner Avatar
    Melissa Garner

    Wes, Thanks SO much for posting from the conference. It’s great to “hear” what’s going on since most of us can’t be there with you.

    Jane, you’ll definitely want to check out for other educators interested in all things Web 2.0. I’m sure you’ll find some science enthusiasts who would be happy to share.