Stephen H. Segal and Valya Dudycz Lupescu’s new book, Geek Parenting, draws out quirky teachable moments from our favourite TV shows, movies and books. In this excerpt, we learn how the grandson and the grandfather in The Princess Bride teach us the value of unplugging the tech and reading to our kids.
When William Goldman wrote The Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern’s Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure in 1973, Atari was still developing its game system. By the time Rob Reiner made the film based on the book, in 1987, Nintendo had surpassed ColecoVision and Atari as the leading game console. Video games were competing with television for kids’ attention, and critics were grumbling about an age of post-literacy. Which makes it notable that The Princess Bride film opens with a boy who is sick in bed, playing Atari. His mother announces a visit from his grandfather, whose gift of an old hardcover storybook is met with skepticism. “When I was your age, television was called books,” the grandfather explains. “And this is a special book. It was the book my father used to read to me when I was sick, and I used to read it to your father, and today, I’m gonna read it to you.”
The grandson listens reluctantly to the story only after his grandfather promises him an adventure to rival any video game: “Fencing. Fighting. Torture. Revenge. Giants. Monsters. Chases. Escapes. True love. Miracles.” After a few initial groans and protests, the boy is sucked into the story, interjecting questions and growing emotionally invested in the characters. By the time brave Westley and his comrades reach the Pit of Despair, the boy has been completely won over – he has discovered the joy of reading.
Today’s kids have more forms of entertainment competing for their time and attention than ever before. But as we and our WiFi-enabled progeny geek out over the latest apps, games, and media streams, let’s not forget the unique appeal of reading a story aloud to our kids. We can pick up the pace, slow it down, or hit pause, depending on their interest. We can revisit favourite parts again and again. We can heighten the suspense or skip over passages that might be too scary. We can create our own character voices and encourage them to join in. We can even change the tale if we want to, asking our audience to guess what happens next. No other platform offers as much interactivity. All we need for this multimedia experience is a book and some light to read by. No cables, Internet connection, Bluetooth speakers, downloads, or wireless routers required.
Excerpted from Geek Parenting: What Joffrey, Jor-El, Maleficent, and the McFlys Teach Us About Raising a Family by Stephen H. Segal and Valya Dudycz Lupescu. Reprinted with permission from Quirk Books.
Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, April/May 2016.